It seems a large amount of rocket fuel during launches is spent to get the mass moving; indeed according to QuickLaunch, Inc. it takes 40% of the rocket fuel to get to Mach 1.3. It seems as though the engines are firing quite a while before liftoff, and considering that the full launch weight of the space shuttle is 4.4 million pounds (~2 million kg).
Would it be feasible to add a counterweight system to help it get started? It seems as though one could be built with a structure a few hundred meters above the launch vehicle, which could significantly reduce the launch weight and get the upward motion started sooner.
What I'd imagine is four cables attached to the launch vehicle, running up to the structure and each having ~400,000kg weights attached. This would make the rockets only need to lift ~400,000kg for the first, say, 200m, which would lead to much greater acceleration for this span and it'd be to Mach 1.3 much sooner.
Is this too hard to make? Would it have any noticeable effect on the fuel requirements, or would it be negligible? Is the acceleration already near the limits of the astronauts' bodies? Or would it just be one other thing that could fail? The reason I ask it just because of the seemingly ludicrous amount of weight that needs to be launched.
Are there any other methods in the works to assist the launch besides rockets for manned vehicles? It doesn't seem space guns or sky ramps are ever planning on having humans in the launch vehicles.