A fountain of metal projectiles supports an elevator extending from the Earth to the geostationary orbit. The projectiles are small metal loops. They are accelerated by electromagnets acting like a linear motor. A sheath in the lower part of the elevator protects the projectiles from the atmosphere. The minimum mass (for 1-ton cargo) is 105 tons.
An exceptional lack of stability and a proclivity for catastrophic failure are distinguishing features of this contraption. To stabilize the elevator a horizontal force would have to be generated either by rockets or by deflecting the projectiles away from the vertical path. The deflected projectiles would then burn in the atmosphere.
The superconductive electromagnets would explode when exposed to the quickly changing magnetic field generated by the projectiles.
The attitude (orientation) of the metal loops is difficult to maintain. Empty aluminum balls would be more practicable projectiles.
Roderick A. Hyde, "EARTHBREAK: Earth to Space Transportation," Defense Science 2003+ Vol. 4, No. 4, 1985, pp. 78-92.
Although the idea proposed by Roderick A. Hyde has numerous flaws, it can probably be salvaged by major modifications. Metal balls are more practicable projectiles than metal loops; the balls are stable, can be produced cheaply and with great precision. Furthermore, the balls can be very small, so the sheath can be narrow and lightweight. The non-superconductive electromagnets should be replaced with solid magnets, which are much more reliable. The stability of the sheath is greatly improved by using a simplified sheath -- straight metal tube rather than closed loop. The stability can be further improved by making the interactions between the projectiles and the magnets less elastic. (The higher resistivity of the projectiles, the less elastic the interactions.) Placing a strong electromagnet on top of the sheath is a mistake because the strong magnetic field would vaporize the projectiles and because it would be difficult to cool the strong electromagnet in the vacuum of outer space.
The stream of projectiles impinges upon a multi-layer plate secured to the top of the sheath. The energy released in the collision is so great that the projectiles turn into plasma. The plasma impinges upon a spacecraft which carries a weak electromagnet. The magnetic force produced by the electromagnet protects the spacecraft from the plasma and holds the plasma between the spacecraft and the new impinging projectiles. The new projectiles vaporize when they impinge upon the plasma. When the spacecraft reaches the altitude of 6000 km, the stream of projectiles departs from vertical direction in order to accelerate the spacecraft in the horizontal direction. The sheath follows the new trajectory of the projectiles. The projectiles must be very small (having diameter of less than one millimeter) so that they vaporize easily and do not damage the spacecraft.
The minimum mass of this system of space transportation is very small, probably on the order of 100 kilograms not counting the coilgun which accelerates the projectiles and its electric power supply. The same system can be used to launch the spacecraft and to bring it back to the Earth.
Launching a very lightweight system is difficult because its sheath must be perfectly straight and horizontal at the beginning of the launch. Antarctica is the best place for this system of space transportation because it is flat and cold. (It is easy to cool the electric contraptions in a cold environment.) At the beginning of the launch the projectiles are launched horizontally into the sheath, then they are launched at a gradually rising angle, until the sheath is vertical.