Are submarine launches horizontal? is a general question and specifies by name two large ICBMs which are likely to need to be launched vertically.

Since the large naval submarines usually come ready-made with torpedo tubes, there are certainly rockets that launch from them that later break the surface and fly in the atmosphere, but the examples I've found are all weapons that target things on or near the surface of the Earth.

Question: Has a rocket launched from a torpedo tube ever reached space? It could be a test or one-time demonstration, it doesn't have to be a production design.

Examples of rockets launching horizontally from torpedo tubes:


Source: Harpoon click for larger

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    $\begingroup$ My feeling is that torpedo-tube-launched missiles are probably too small for any kind of launches to space and that submarine-based launch systems are probably descended from ballistic missiles, which have a lot more in common with orbital rockets (and are launched vertically). Apparently a few such systems exist. $\endgroup$ – kwc Jan 18 at 7:08
  • $\begingroup$ As a rule-of-thumb check, a modern Mk 48 torpedo weighs just shy of 1700 kg and is 5.8m long x 0.53m in diameter. I'm having trouble finding sounding rockets / rocketsondes that are that small, though maybe one exists. $\endgroup$ – Erin Anne Jan 18 at 8:59
  • $\begingroup$ @ErinAnne ah, thanks! If only there were a website where one could look for things like that... hey there is! :-D Smallest orbital rocket by diameter? and Smallest orbital rockets by height? and Smallest sounding rocket to reach space by height? and Do you know a rocket for launching femto and pico satellites smaller than the SS-520? and perhaps How small could an orbital rocket be? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 18 at 9:16
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    $\begingroup$ mind that Regulus was not launched from a torpedo tube, but from a launch ramp on the rear deck of the submarine, in similar fashion to how Germany launched their V1 cruise missiles. $\endgroup$ – jwenting Jan 18 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh I'm excited that the "smallest sounding rocket" one indicates that space-capable rockets have come in sizes that would fit in a torpedo tube. Orbit seems out of reach without much larger tubes though. Neat $\endgroup$ – Erin Anne Jan 18 at 23:17

The Exocet SM39 is an old version introduced 1985 for submarines. It used a solid rocket engine, the maximum distance was only 50 km. Wingspan was 1.09 m.

The newest version MM.40 Block 3 was introduced 2008, it uses a booster for the start and a TRI-40/263-Turbojet. Maximum distance was 200 km, wingspan 1.13 m. Speed of both versions was about mach 0.9.

The Harpoon was introduced 1977, it uses a Teledyne CAE J402 turbojet and a solid propellant booster for launch. Maximum distance 280 km, speed mach 0.7, Wingspan 3 ft (0.91 m).

So all these examples of cruise missiles that can come out of torpedo tubes are designed for horizontal short distance sub sonic flight using wings. Two of them are equipped with air breathing turbojets. Mass less than 1000 kg, diameter less than 400 mm, length less than 5 m. Is there any example of an orbital rocket being so small and single stage?

Shtil' is 14.8 meters tall and 1.9 meters in diameter. It weighs about 39.3 tonnes (metric tons) at liftoff, three stages. It can come out of submarine launch tubes.

So a torpedo tube seems to be much too small for an orbital rocket with a small payload.

  • $\begingroup$ -1 because this is currently not an answer to the question asked. Those things are simply examples showing that rockets can come out of torpedo tubes. Saying that they didn't go to space is not helpful because there is no presumption that they could have. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 18 at 18:01

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