Difference between Rocket and Missile

December 17, 2015 by Editorial Team

Rockets and Missiles are known for their highly advanced technology. These are two extremely vital inventions of science. Rockets are mostly used in space exploration and defence. A few major historical achievements, such as the moon landings and putting satellites into space, have seen a great contribution from rockets. Missiles are a type of rocket that have a defence application. Despite that, rockets and missiles are two different technologies. These two inventions are used in different ways to realize high velocities, range and acceleration.


Rocket lunch

When it comes to defining a rocket, it is a spacecraft or aircraft which uses a rocket engine to obtain thrust. Rockets have simple as well as ancient roots. Rockets carry inside them propellants which help shape the rocket engine exhaust before use. The third of law of Newton of action and reaction drives rocket engines, which expel the rocket engine exhaust at a high speed in the opposing way to push rockets further.

Rockets depend on numerous things such as auxiliary reaction engines, momentum, gimballed thrust, propellant flow, gravity, exhaust stream deflection, momentum wheels, spin and airfoils to aid direct flight.

RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missile

The missile got its name from the Latin word mittere (a verb) which indicates “to send”. Military weapons are aimed towards some target, and are essentially considered as a type of powered munitions. When it goes through the air, it is dubbed a missile.

The missiles that were initially brought into operation were those developed by Nazi Germany during World War II. Only a few missiles were built during that time. All of them used a basic radio control system which was run by the operator.


A missile is mainly a type of munition operated by a rocket. A rocket is a powerful spacecraft that holds the capacity to produce notable acceleration and obtain extremely high speeds. But a missile is a precision-led munitions system, a rocket’s defence application that comprises four basic subsystems, namely Guidance systems, Rocket engine, Warhead, and Flight Systems.

Modern rockets saw their development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. On the other hand, modern missiles were first developed as V2 rockets by the Germans. Basically, two kinds of rockets are used, including chemically powered and electrically powered rockets. There are various types of missiles, including ballistic and cruise.

Comparison Chart

Rocket Missile
A rocket can be defined as a missile or spacecraft which acquires high speeds from a rocket engine.A missile can be defined as a self-driven munitions system that is powered by a rocket.
Rockets do need guidance.All missiles such as Ballistic or Anti-tank missiles are guided.
Every rocket is a missile.Every missile may not be a rocket.