Alibaba Exploring How to Deliver Cheap Plastic Garbage Via Space Rocket

Specious Delivery

Chinese rocket maker Space Epoch has announced a partnership with e-commerce platform and Alibaba-owned landfill generator Taobao to make deliveries via rocket around the world in just one hour — and to be entirely honest, the concept is so outlandish that we can't quite tell if it's an early April Fool's joke.

The announcement, posted to Chinese social media platform WeChat on March 31, details a new rocket dubbed "Yuanxing-1" that's designed to launch up to ten tons of cargo inside a 120 cubic meter container into orbit.

An animation shows a package being loaded into a rocket and shooting into space and then back down, spending just 25 minutes to traverse all of China before its cargo is emptied into a waiting van.

It's vaguely reminiscent of SpaceX's much-larger and more capable Starship. The US Air Force is hoping to make use of the launch platform to ferry cargo across the globe as well.

But whether it's feasible, let alone economically viable, to make global rocket deliveries — especially if we're talking about the bottom-shelf cheap plastic junk that Alibaba's known for selling in huge quantities — remains dubious at best.

Space Junk

Space Epoch's rocket has already completed early ignition and offshore recovery tests last year, Reuters reports. But getting to the point of making global deliveries for Alibaba will still require a number of major breakthroughs, effectively leapfrogging SpaceX's established tech.

To pick one glaring example, no Chinese entity has yet pulled off the Elon Musk-led company's party trick of landing one of its rockets after launch.

At the same time, China's space program has already made significant progress over the last few years, including 17 commercial launches and just one failure out of 67 orbital launches total last year, per Reuters.

The state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology also recently showed off early prototypes of a massive reusable rocket that could play a key role in the country's ambitions to send astronauts to the Moon by 2030.

But whether making global deliveries for Taobao will ever become a profitable venture remains to be seen. Even delivery by drones has failed to take off. As The Register points out, it's been over ten years since Amazon first suggested making deliveries via drones — and as far as we can tell, the concept has been dead in the water for years now.

More on China's rockets: Videos Show Chinese Rocket Parts Raining Down, Exploding