A ballistic missile is a missile which gets out of the earth's atmosphere and into space; its path is not strictly considered an orbit but is more of an arch. Most ballistic missiles are ground-to-ground based, although they can also be launched from sea-based platforms (see:SLBM). Some have enough range to reach another continent; see Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Ballistic missiles were first developed by the Germans during World War II.
Some ICBMs carry nuclear warheads.