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If you reference for example a JavaScript library from a CDN it will loaded from the browser's cache if it has already been downloaded. But SharePoint doesn't always run in a Internet facing environment. Then you have to store the scripts on the server.

My problem: Say I have 5 app parts on a page, each of those use jQuery. Since all apps exist on its own domain, will jQuery be downloaded 5 times? How do I prevent this behavior? Ideally the browser should only have to download asset X once.

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If they are 5 different apps from 5 different developers and each is using its own local copy of Jquery then there is nothing you can do. On the other hand, if you are the developer of those 5 apps just use put all common files on a central server and reference the files from there. Browser caching works based on the domain where the file is pulled from.

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