How much of the total propellant mass (fuel+oxidizer) of the first stage/boosters is usually burnt between ignition and liftoff?


For the Space Shuttle:

Using the same approximate curves (with all their assumptions and limitations) used in the answer to How does the Space Shuttle's SSME engine's thrust vary after ignition?, we can integrate the SSME flowrates to get a startup propellant consumption of:

416 lbm LH2, 2246 lbm LO2 per engine,

and ~ 1248 lbm LH2, 6738 lbm LO2 for all three engines.

Since liftoff was virtually instantaneous after SRB ignition (certainly to the precision of these calculations) we can ignore SRB propellant usage preliftoff.

Using the ET loading numbers from Challenger disaster: how full was the external tank at the time of destruction? (LO2 1,387,457 lbm, LH2 234,265 lbm) we can calculate the % usage of ET propellant prior to liftoff as approximately 0.5% for both propellants.

  • $\begingroup$ The external tank is loaded with 1,387,457 lb of LOX and 234,265 lb of LH2. So only 0.5 % of LOX and also of LH2 are used before liftoff. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Mar 18 '19 at 14:05

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