Missile vs Rocket

Rockets and missiles are both vehicles that use rocket propulsion, but they serve different purposes and have distinct characteristics. Here are the key differences between rockets and missiles. Rockets are often used for scientific research, space exploration, and launching payloads into space. They can also be used for various applications on Earth, such as fireworks or as propulsion systems for spacecraft. Missiles are primarily designed as guided weapons systems for military or defense purposes. They are intended to carry a payload (such as explosives) to a specific target, whether it's a military target, an enemy aircraft, or a ground-based target.

Rockets typically do not have sophisticated guidance systems. They follow a predetermined trajectory based on their initial launch parameters and are not typically capable of adjusting their course after launch. Missiles are equipped with guidance systems that allow them to change their course in-flight and home in on a target. These guidance systems can be inertial, GPS-based, radar-guided, or even human-operated for some types of missiles.



• It is a weapon which has warhead, flies with own propulsion system, and its flight path is controlled and guided by control system.
• A guided missile is a rocket propelled missile whose path can be controlled during flight either by radio signals or by internal homing devices.
• Based on their launch methods, there are two types of missiles viz. Ballistic Missile and Cruise Missile. A ballistic missile is a missile which has a ballistic trajectory over most of its flight path, regardless of whether or not it is a weapon delivery vehicle. A cruise missile is an unmanned self propelled guided vehicle which sustains flight through aerodynamic lift for most of its flight path and whose primary mission is to place an ordnance or special payload on a target.

Based on different aspects missiles can be classified as follows.
➤Type : Cruise missile and Ballistic missile >>
➤Launch Mode: Surface to Surface missile, surface to Air missile, Surface (coast) to sea missile, air to air missile, air to surface missile, sea to sea missile, sea to surface (coast) missile, anti-tank missile.
➤Range: Short range missile, medium range missile, intermediate range ballistic missile, intercontinental ballistic missile.
➤Propulsion: solid propulsion, liquid propulsion, hybrid propulsion etc.
➤Guidance Systems : Wire guidance, command guidance, terrestrial guidance, inertial guidance, beam rider guidance, laser guidance, RF and GPS reference.



• It is a vehicle which relies on the reaction of rocket motor exhaust gas to fly.
• It is used to transport human and other devices in space where it is fueled in such a way that it has high speed enough to travel outside of the gravity.
• All rocket engine produce thrust by accelerating a working fluid which are of many types. There are many ways to produce acceleration in rocket.
• There are two main types of chemical rocket engines viz. liquid rockets and solid rockets.
• Refer advantages and disadvantages of reusable rocket >>.

Difference between rocket and missile

Features Missile Rocket
Motor Rocket motor or Jet engine or combined engine etc. Rocket motor
Payload Warhead Warhead (only when used as weapon)
Guidance system Must have Free or guided rocket
Usage It is never used as a spacecraft. A rocket is sometimes called a spacecraft.
Speed Lower Higher
Accuracy More Less
Range Missiles are designed with specific operational ranges and are optimized for short, medium or long range engagements. Rockets have wide range of intended flight distances, from suborbital flights to interplanetary missions.
Examples Agni (Ballistic missile), Brahmos (Cruise missile) made by INDIA AIR-2 Genie (Air to air rocket) made by USA
R4M rocket (air to air) made by Germany
CRV7 (air to surface) made by CANADA

Conclusion : In summary, while both rockets and missiles use rocket propulsion, their purposes, guidance systems, payloads, use cases and operational characteristics are distinct. Rockets are typically used for peaceful and scientific purposes, while missiles are designed for military and defense applications.

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