Aerospace comprises the atmosphere of Earth and surrounding space. Typically the term is used to refer to the industry that researches, designs, manufactures, operates, and maintains vehicles moving through air and space. Aerospace is a very diverse field, with a multitude of commercial, industrial and military applications.
Aerospace is not the same as airspace, which is a term used to describe the physical air space directly above a location on the ground.
In most industrial countries, the aerospace industry is a cooperation of public and private industries. For example, several countries have a space program under the command of the government, such as NASA in the United States, ESA in Europe, the Canadian Space Agency in Canada, Indian Space Research Organisation in India, RKA in Russia, China National Space Administration in China, SUPARCO in Pakistan, Iranian Space Agency in Iran, and Korea Aerospace Research Institute(KARI) in South Korea.
Along with these public space programs, many companies produce technical tools and components such as spaceships and satellites. Some known companies involved in space programs include Boeing, EADS, Lockheed Martin, MacDonald Dettwiler and Northrop Grumman. These companies are also involved in other areas of aerospace such as the construction of aircraft.
The field of aerospace has been investigated for millennia, but modern aerospace began with the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903, by the Wright brothers. From there, aerospace has grown to be one of the most exciting, diverse, and fast paced fields of today. From the hot-air balloons of 18th century to the first wood-and-cloth plane of Wilbur and Orville Wright to the first manned mission to the moon on Apollo 11 to the new and exciting aircraft being developed by companies like Boeing, Airbus, and Bombardier.
Aerospace manufacturing is a high technology industry that produces "aircraft, guided missiles, space vehicles, aircraft engines, propulsion units, and related parts". Most of the industry is geared toward governmental work. For each Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), the US government has assigned a CAGE code. These codes help to identify each manufacturer, repair facilities, and other critical aftermarket vendors in the aerospace industry.
In the European Union, aerospace companies such as EADS, BAE Systems, Thales, Dassault, Saab and Finmeccanica account for a large share of the global aerospace industry and research effort, with the European Space Agency as one of the largest consumers of aerospace technology and products.
In the People's Republic of China, Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Shanghai, Shenyang and Nanchang are major research and manufacture centers of the aerospace industry. China has developed an extensive capability to design, test and produce military aircraft, missiles and space vehicles. Despite the cancellation in 1983 of the experimental Shanghai Y-10, China is still developing its civil aerospace industry.
In India, Bangalore is a major center of the aerospace industry, where Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the National Aerospace Laboratories and the Indian Space Research Organisation are headquartered. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched India's first Moon orbiter, Chandrayaan-1, in October 2008.
In Russia, large aerospace companies like Oboronprom and the United Aircraft Building Corporation (encompassing Mikoyan, Sukhoi, Ilyushin, Tupolev, Yakovlev, and Irkut which includes Beriev) are among the major global players in this industry. The historic Soviet Union was also the home of a very major aerospace industry.
The United Kingdom formerly attempted to maintain its own large aerospace industry, making its own airliners and warplanes, but it has largely turned its lot over to cooperative efforts with continental companies, and it has turned into a large import customer, too, from countries such the United States. However, the UK has a very active aerospace sector, including the 2nd largest defence contractor in the world, BAE Systems, supplying components, sub-assemblies and sub-systems to other manufacturers, both in Europe and all over the world, including the United States.
In the United States of America, the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are the two largest consumers of aerospace technology and products. Others include the very large airline industry. The aerospace industry employed 472,000 wage and salary workers in 2006. Most of those jobs were in Washington state and in California, with Missouri and Texas also important. The leading aerospace manufacturers in the U.S. are Boeing, United Technologies Corporation, and Lockheed Martin.
These manufacturers are facing an increasing labor shortage as skilled U.S. workers age and retire. Apprenticeship programs such as the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Council (AJAC) work in collaboration with Washington state aerospace employers and community colleges to train new manufacturing employees to keep the industry supplied.
Important locations of the civilian aerospace industry worldwide include Washington state (Boeing), California (Boeing, Lockheed Martin, etc.); Montreal, Canada (Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney Canada); Toulouse, France (Airbus/EADS); and Hamburg, Germany (Airbus/EADS); as well as São José dos Campos, where the Brazilian Embraer company is based.
Canada has formerly manufactured some of its own designs for jet warplanes, etc. (e.g. the CF-100 fighter), but for some decades, it has relied on imports from the United States to fill these needs. However Canada still manufactures some military planes although they are generally not combat or fighter planes.
France has continued to make its own warplanes for its air force and navy, and Sweden continues to make its own warplanes for the Swedish Air Force—especially in support of its position as a neutral country. (See SAAB.) Other European countries either team up in making fighters (such as the Panavia Tornado and the Eurofighter), or else to import them from the United States.
Pakistan is also undertaking advancements in the field of aerospace engineering. It is now fulfilling its needs in the guided missile technology. After the establishment of the Institute of Space Technology, Pakistan is looking to advance in space technology as well as aircraft design and manufacturing.
The aircraft parts industry was born out of the sale of second-hand or used aircraft parts from the aerospace manufacture sector. Within the United States there is a specific process that parts brokers or resellers must follow. This includes leveraging a certified repair station to overhaul and "tag" a part. This certification guarantees that a part was repaired or overhauled to meet OEM specifications. Once a part is overhauled its value is determined from the supply and demand of the aerospace market. When an airline has an aircraft on the ground, the part that the airline requires to get the plane back into service becomes invaluable. This can drive the market for specific parts. There are several online marketplaces that assist with the commodity selling of aircraft parts.