It's a fantastic time to be following spaceflight. Just when much looked lost with the Obama administration's cancellation of the return-to-the-Moon Constellation programme and the end of the Space Shuttle era, the US Congress has turned around and given NASA the money to develop a rocket capable of taking astronauts and hardware into deep space, a beautiful complement to the low-Earth orbit transportation capabilities being developed by private sector firms ranging from increasingly-mighty SpaceX to tiny Xcor, with its Lynx suborbital spaceplane.
But to stop there would be to make an assumption that Americans - and many Europeans - so often make. Spaceflight is no longer an American and Russian domain; Europe is a serious player driving some of the most exciting developments we can look forward to over the next decade.
Before 2011 is out, the European Space Agency will be operating three launchers. October will see the first of many Soyuz launches from French Guiana, followed quickly by the maiden flight of ESA's Vega rocket. Those two will give ESA medium and light options alongside its super-reliable Ariane 5 heavylifter. And, Vega developments in the pipeline promise to turn it into a supremely flexible vehicle.
ESA will also this year begin launching Europe's Galileo navigation constellation, and is readying the third Automated Transfer Vehicle mission to the International Space Station - which recently took delivery of its largest-ever scientific payload, he ESA-built alpha-magnetic spectrometer, a 6.9t particle detector physicists hope will help unravel the secrets of so-called "dark matter".
Meanwhile, ESA is readying the 2014 launch of BepiColumbo, an innovative mission to Mercury, and awaiting the "return from Mars" of six astronauts who are spending 500 days in isolation in a mock-up spacecraft near Moscow; they've been simulating a mission to the red planet, to find out whether a crew can really cope with such a long expedition so far from home.
By year-end we may even find out that the world's next space shuttle could be a UK project. If testing of a radical hybrid engine project goes to plan, Oxford-based Reaction Engines is set to cut loose on development of its Skylon unmanned spaceplane concept, which promises to make single-stage-to-orbit flight a reality.
I'll be reporting from Flightglobal's London headquarters on these and other European contributions to the increasingly global and collaborative human project that is spaceflight.