Alibaba announces space plans for its biggest shopping event

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/10/22 21:13:40

Pedestrians walk past an advertisement for the Tmall 11.11 online shopping festival at a subway station in Beijing File photo: IC

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group on Monday announced its space plans for the forthcoming November 11 sales event.

In an attempt to improve online-to-offline integration during the annual shopping event, the company is set to loft a mini space station known as Candy Tin and a Tmall International communications satellite around this year's Singles' Day, according to a statement Alibaba sent to the Global Times on Monday.

The e-commerce company is also banking on its space plans to work with scientific research institutions, for relevant space technologies and autonomous driving technologies to be translated into real-world applications. The cost of the launch was not disclosed.

Doubts remain over the actual significance of the launch. There is no apparent link between the launch and an improvement in the buying experience, Liu Dingding, a Beijing-based industry analyst, told the Global Times on Monday.

"For the time being, it seems to be much of a publicity stunt," Liu said, noting however it remains to be seen whether Alibaba - which has announced a $15 billion global R&D initiative called DAMO Academy - would consider incorporating new technologies into its space actions.

This is not the first time that Alibaba has revealed its space ambitions. In September 2016, the company's daily deals site - - announced plans to launch the world's first e-commerce satellite to allow for satellite data to be used in agriculture. Through the satellite providing agricultural cultivation and harvesting data, consumers are supposed to be provided with the world's best vegetables.

The report said plans to provide consumers with the world's best vegetables after analyzing agricultural cultivation and harvesting data provided by satellites.

The company's space moves, which are an example of domestic internet companies' expansion into the commercial space sector, are still lagging larger steps toward space being taken by their global counterparts.

For example, Google and Fidelity Investments invested $1 billion in SpaceX, the private rocket company founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, in 2015. SpaceX and satellite internet start-up OneWeb, also US-based, are now racing to build space-based internet. 

Amazon's space venture Blue Origin, founded in 2000, is reportedly working on low-cost infrastructure intended to reduce the cost of space travel.




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