I frequently run across statements like:
“The Space Shuttle uses half its fuel just to get off the ground”
“The Space Shuttle uses 96.2% of its fuel to get one foot into the air”
“The Space Shuttle uses nearly all its fuel in the few seconds immediately after launch”
This does not seem reasonable to me. The solid rocket boosters, which provide a majority of the thrust to get into orbit, burn at what appears to be a pretty continuous rate for a good couple of minutes. Also, the acceleration of the shuttle must be more-or-less continuous since the crew experience a maximum of something around 4 or 5 Gs. If all the fuel got used up in the first few seconds, it would mean (a) most of it is wasted or (b) most of the energy to get to orbit is imparted in the first few seconds, neither of which is easy for me to believe.
Any ideas? I have a colleague who strenuously insists on this assertion because he has been using it in motivational seminars for years, so if I’m going to prove him wrong, I’ll need solid references. On the other hand, it’s possible I may owe him an apology.