Space launch vehicle

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A space launch vehicle (SLV) is a mechanism for propelling objects into outer space, either on a suborbital or orbital path, or into an escape velocity from Earth orbit. The term explicitly excludes ballistic missiles used as weapons, in part because the space segment is incidental to the mission of the missile, which is hitting a target on earth. The same physical vehicle used as a ballistic missile, however, often have been programmed as SLV. Space launch vehicles are used for the specific purpose of putting an object, if briefly, into space.

Current space launch vehicles are principally rocket propelled, although some may be launched from aircraft or balloons. While the Jules Verne-style gun catapult of From the Earth to the Moon is impractical other than for extremely small payloads, there is active interest in launchers using railguns (i.e., linear electromagnetic motors).

There are both commercial and military launchers.