In spaceflight, a launch vehicle or carrier rocket is a rocket used to carry a payload from the Earth's surface into outer space. A launch system includes the launch vehicle, the launch pad and other infrastructure.
Usually the payload is an artificial satellite placed into orbit, but some spaceflights are sub-orbital while others enable spacecraft to escape Earth orbit entirely.
A launch vehicle which carries its payload on a suborbital trajectory is often called a sounding rocket. Launch vehicles, particularly orbital launch vehicles, have at least two stages, but sometimes up to 4 are employed.