NEW ORLEANS—Lockheed Martin is working in New Orleans on parts for a mini-shuttle designed to take NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

It also has two other projects underway at the Michoud Assembly Facility in eastern New Orleans, where thousands of people built space shuttle fuel tanks in the 1980s. NASA retired the shuttles in 2011.

Lockheed Martin vice president Jim Crocker said Tuesday it's good to see the lights on again.

The company is working for Sierra Nevada Corp. of Sparks, Nev.—one of three aerospace companies picked in 2012 to build small rocketships to take astronauts to the space station.

Sierra Nevada official Mark Sirangelo says the Dream Chaser vehicles could help with satellite repairs and serve as space laboratories as well as astronaut shuttles.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Companies hoping to shuttle NASA astronauts to the International Space Station are showing their work at the Michoud Assembly Facility in eastern New Orleans.

Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., has begun building the Dream Chaser mini-shuttle at Michoud for Sierra Nevada Corp. of Sparks, Nev.

Officials from both companies are at Michoud on Tuesday to update reporters.

Sierra Nevada is among three aerospace companies picked in 2012 to build small rocketships to take astronauts to the space station.

The Boeing Co. of Houston and Space Exploration Technologies, called SpaceX, of Hawthorne, Calif., are building capsules like those of the Apollo era.

Sierra Nevada's design is based on an old NASA test ship design. It looks like the retired shuttle but its stubby wings are steeply angled upward. It could be flown without a pilot.

The company plans its first orbital flight demonstration in 2016 and its first crewed orbital mission in 2017.

The capsules and mini-shuttle are all designed to hold seven people.

Private companies already are shipping cargo to the space station. NASA is paying Russia about $63 million per launch to fly its astronauts.

Lockheed Martin, which built more than 100 external tanks for the shuttle at Michoud, announced about a year ago that it would be building 88-foot-long tanks there for liquefied natural gas storage and transportation.

The end of the shuttle program cost Michoud thousands of jobs.

Work at the plant was investigated after the space shuttle Columbia broke apart in 2003. The investigation did not find fault with the workers in New Orleans. It blamed the culture inside NASA, including engineers who had come to accept the idea that insulating foam flying off the shuttle was not a danger.