The United Steelworkers' hopes for a contract with the huge Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. dimmed again yesterday as the company appealed a bargaining order from the National Labor Regulations Board.

In a notice of appeal filed with the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, the company sought to overturn an NLRB ruling last week reaffirming the union as bargaining agent for workers at the shipyard and ordering the company to begin negotiations for a contract.

Steelworkers President Lloyd McBride had called on the company to abandon further litigation and begin bargaining imediately for a contract to cover the yard's 17,000 blue -- collar workers.

Tacitly rejecting McBride's request, company President Edward J. Campbell said the firm was appealing the NLRB decision because the board "ignore(d) the evidence of numerous and significant irregularies" in upholding a representation election in January 1978 that was won by the union.

He noted that the appeals court had directed the NLRB to review evidence relating to changes of chain -- balloting and other election irregularities and added: "We believe we have met the standard of evidence required by the court."

Bargaining delays caused by the litigation already have cost the Steel what was once viewed as one of the few clear -- cut union victories in the South in recent years. Last winter, the union suspended a 12-week strike after thousands of workers returned to their jobs despite picket lines and the lack of a contract.