JP Aerospace is developing the technology to fly a balloon or more accurately, their relative, the airship directly to orbit.They're testing components, which is very cool indeed - much cooler than some blueprints and a pack of "Artist's Conceptions".
Flying an airship directly from the ground to orbit is not practical. An airship large enough to reach orbit would not survive the winds near the surface of the Earth. Conversely, an airship that could fly from the ground to upper atmosphere would not be light enough to reach space. The resulting configuration is a three-part architecture for using lighter-than-air vehicles to reach space.
The potential fly in the ointment is the upper stage, that actually takes you to orbit. At those altitudes (>150,000 ft), and at orbital speed, what little air there is flows over the airship at hypersonic speeds. It's not clear that JP Aerospace has figured out to deal with this.
But still, it's one of the coolest things I've seen is some time.