Space rockets are used for scientific research, national defense and the transportation of humans and materials beyond the Earth's atmosphere. They are also used to return humans and materials to Earth from space.
The Space Shuttle, which began its service with NASA on April 12, 1981 and ended on July 21, 2011, was a rocket-powered spacecraft that transported humans and materials to orbit for scientific research. The Space Shuttle orbital vehicle itself used three rocket engines supplemented by three solid rocket boosters to lift the spacecraft into orbit.
Intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, are weapons-delivery vehicles that are powered by rocket engines. These engines lift the ICBM to a sub-orbital trajectory, just outside of Earth's atmosphere. Once the ICBM reaches its highest altitude, called the apogee, the payload, typically a nuclear weapon, is deployed.