What is the difference between a Rocket and a Missile?

Wonders of science have always amazed humans and their advancement in this area has helped to better the world. Science has evolved a lot in space and defense sector and has developed a lot of devices that are helping in defense areas and exploring space in a better way. With so many devices present people who have little knowledge about these devices or in these areas are always confused between certain devices and may term them as same. The biggest confusion known so far in the defense and space sector is that people think that the missile and rocket are the same. Although their structure and function may seem to be the same, they differ in their work and application.

A rocket explores space and is also used in the defense sector. It needs a large amount of fuel to defy gravity and go beyond space carrying devices and humans. A rocket is also used as a spacecraft and is programmed to go on its own in a straight path with initial guidance during its takeoff.

A missile is a device that is used only for military purposes. Missiles can change their route and require constant guidance from the military base.  It requires high velocity and gets to its target by traversing through gravity and friction.

Major differences between rocket and missile are:-

1.Propulsion medium

Rocket has the ability to be propelled through air and vacuum, whereas a missile can only venture through the air. Rocket has a propulsion system(solid or liquid-fuelled),  where it gets propelled by the combustion of oxygen and fuel present inside its propulsion system.  A missile uses its surrounding air to reach its target with the rocket being its propulsion system.

2.Guidance system

A rocket can be termed as a dumb weapon as it doesn’t have a guidance system. A rocket just needs initial guidance during its take off as compared to a missile which has constant guidance until it reaches its target. A rocket cannot change its direction past its take off but a missile can change its direction or target with unwavering guidance.


Warhead is the front part of both missile and rocket that carries toxic and explosive chemicals. Both missile and rocket deliver these explosive warheads to its target but the major difference is that warheads of a rocket are unguided whereas missile has guided warheads.

  1. Accuracy and Speed

A rocket requires great speed to transverse through the earth’s atmosphere and go beyond space. a missile operates within the atmosphere but has to reach its target perfectly, and in order to do that, it requires high accuracy. So in speed comparison rocket excels missile whilst missile outclasses rocket in terms of accuracy.


Missiles are only used for military purposes while rockets work for both defense and space technologies. Rockets work as a spacecraft but missile cannot operate as spacecraft.

Classification of both missile and rocket is the same but the work of both is different. A rocket can be a missile but a missile can never be a rocket. The above-mentioned points will help people clear their confusion and have a better understanding about rockets and missiles.

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