While both the aviation and aerospace industries concern products and services related to aircraft, they are commonly distinguished in the following manner – the aviation industry is responsible for the operation, flight and flight management of passenger, commercial and military and government aircraft. The aerospace industry designs, engineers, develops, tests and manufactures aircraft for civilian (airlines, commercial, surveillance, law enforcement) and military aviation. The aerospace industry is also responsible for the development and production of vehicles capable of leaving the earth’s atmosphere (space shuttles, rockets, high-altitude aircraft) and spacecraft including extraterrestrial vehicles and satellites. Many governments maintain aircraft fleets for civilian and military purposes with significant tax-based funding able to support internationally-active defense companies such as Lockheed Martin (LM), Boeing, Northrup Grumman, EADS, United Aircraft Company (UAC) and various engine, machinery and weapons companies.
Aerospace manufacturing creates many high technology products, including, aircraft, aircraft engines, guided missiles, propulsion units, and space vehicles. The largest consumers of aerospace and aircraft technology in the United States are the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Defense aircraft contracts can total billions of U.S. dollars, with decades-long development, production and service and support contracts totaling over one trillion dollars.