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#1. Shuttle Retirement

While overdue, the most significant space-related event of 2011 was the end of an era: the retirement of the Shuttle fleet. It made the public aware of our lack of progress in space, and highlighted the importance of NewSpace. Mike Wall at SPACE.com

#2. CCDev Round 2
The Commercial Crew Development Program was probably the most buzzed about space news story of the year. Not only because of the amazing progress being made, but because of the progress being hindered by an embarrassing display of ignorance by Congress. CCDev Program Website

#3. Silly Launch System

Congress has decreed that NASA shall build an enormous rocket, the likes of which the world has never seen...at least since the one NASA canceled back in the 60s due to the absurd cost. This monster rocket, called the Space Launch System (SLS), is a product of shameful pork spending by Congress. SLS has, and will continue to have, a huge (negative) impact on NewSpace; it must be killed. Now. Amy Svitak at Space News

#4. Making Strides
The Google Lunar XPrize has made several giant leaps this year. Long-standing leader Astrobotic made amazing progress, and two new competitors emerged: Moon Express and the Rocket City Space Pioneers (RCSP). Moon Express and RCSP have already jumped into Evadot's second and third place, respectively. GLXP Scorecard at Evadot

#5. Soyuz Crash

The first of many major failures by the Russians this year was the crash of a Soyuz rocket on its way to resupply the ISS. This event exposed the grim state of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, and how necessary NewSpace really is. There have been several other disasters in Russia this year, most recently the Phobos-Grunt mission. Tariq Malik at SPACE.com

#6. Stratolaunch
Possibly one of the most exciting, albeit unexpected, announcements of the year was Stratolaunch. This new company, a collaboration of Paul Allen, Burt Rutan, SpaceX, and the RCSP (need I say more?) is planning to build a gigantic orbital air-launch system. With six 747 engines, a weight of over 1.2 million pounds, and a wingspan in excess of 380 feet, Stratolaunch is everything Congress wishes SLS could be, without costing taxpayers a dime. Stratolaunch Company Website

#7. Falcon Heavy

SpaceX put their name in history books last year as the first commercial company to re-enter a capsule. This year they kept up the pace, starting with their announcement of Falcon Heavy. They also started work on Grasshopper, and completed numerous milestones in CCDev and COTS. Press Release at SpaceX

#8. So Close!

Despite taking longer than anyone anticipated, Virgin Galactic is still leading the pack of suborbital tourism companies. With dozens of key tests completed this year, VG is tantalizingly close to starting flights. Guy Norris at Aviation Week

#9. Flight Opportunities Program

This year NASA chose seven suborbital companies to send experiments into suborbit. Each company received a two-year contract to integrate and fly indefinite number of payloads to the edge of space. Flight Opportunities Program Website

#10. Antares

For NewSpace, Orbital Sciences is ancient. Of course, they didn't start out as a NewSpace company, but with Taurus II (now called Antares) they are showing promise. Antares is now set for its first flight, which is scheduled for the first quarter of 2012. Now we will just have to see where they go from here. Antares Project Website


#11. Isle of Man Launches First Satellite
With no corporate taxes, the Isle of Man has become a haven for small space startups. Progress has been made by many of the island's companies over the years, but this year was the first time that a satellite was launched by the Isle of Man.
Peter B. de Selding at SPACE.com 


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