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How Does a Ballistic Missile Work?

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A ballistic missile is a type of large and powerful missile designed to deliver a warhead across large distances to a predetermined target. Ballistic missiles follow suborbital trajectories, reaching space (100 km+) altitudes and exiting the Earth’s atmosphere, in some cases traveling as high as 1,200 km over the surface for intercontinental ballistic missiles. Such missiles are called “ballistic” because after an initial boost phase, the rest of the course is usually determined by ballistics. A smooth parabolic line. Ballistic missiles come in many shapes and sizes. In the United States, ballistic missiles are divided into four range classes: • intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) – over 5500 kilometers • intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) – 3000 to 5500 kilometers • medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) 1000 to 3000 kilometers • short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) up to 1000 kilometers For ranges less than 350 km, the ballistic missile never leaves the Earth’s ... more
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A ballistic missile is a type of large and powerful missile designed to deliver a warhead across large distances to a predetermined target. Ballistic missiles follow suborbital trajectories, reaching space (100 km+) altitudes and exiting the Earth’s atmosphere, in some cases traveling as high as 1,200 km over the surface for intercontinental ballistic missiles. Such missiles are called “ballistic†because after an initial boost phase, the rest of the course is usually determined by ballistics. A smooth parabolic line. Ballistic missiles come in many shapes and sizes. In the United States, ballistic missiles are divided into four range classes: intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) – over 5500 kilometers intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) – 3000 to 5500 kilometers medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) 1000 to 3000 kilometers short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) up to 1000 kilometers For ranges less than 350 km, the ballistic missile never leaves the Earth’s ... more

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