A launch vehicle is a typically rocket-powered vehicle designed to carry a payload (spacecraft or satellites) from the Earth's surface to outer space. The most common form is the carrier rocket, but the term is more general and also encompasses vehicles like the Space Shuttle. Most launch vehicles operate from a launch pads, supported by a launch control center and systems such as vehicle assembly and fueling. Launch vehicles are engineered with advanced aerodynamics and technologies, which contribute to large operating costs.
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An orbital launch vehicle must lift its payload at least to the boundary of space, approximately 150 km (93 mi) and accelerate it to a horizontal velocity of at least 7,814 m/s (17,480 mph). Suborbital vehicles launch their payloads to lower velocity or are launched at elevation angles greater than horizontal.