Bethesda-based Martin Marietta Corp. has assembled a seven-company team to compete for a share of the government's high-cost space station program, Marietta officials announced yesterday.

The Marietta group, headed by Martin Marietta Aerospace, will bid on a "work package" -- a relatively small but important portion of the space station assignment that will involve development of environmental control and life support systems in the proposed stellar outpost.

Bids on the initial program work, which are essentially feasibility studies, are due Nov. 15 at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said yesterday.

The studies will consume the next 18 months or more of the program, depending on how many contracts are let for the "preliminary, definition phase of the project," the NASA spokesman said.

"Our purpose is to thoroughly explore all of the technical and other programmatic risks . . . before doing anything with hardware," the agency spokesman said.

So far, no bids have been received on the initial work, according to NASA officials. They added that contractors for agency projects usually file proposals at or very close to the final deadline.

NASA estimates that the overall cost of the space station, which is to be completed in 1992, will be $8 billion.

The station itself currently is seen as a 100-ton, four-chamber facility capable of housing up to eight people at one time. Proponents say it will be a boon to scientific research and to commerce of a yet-to-be-defined variety. Opponents say it is star-gazing of the most expensive sort -- a lark that will drain federal money away from other more desirable space projects.

Marietta officials see it as a lucrative chance to demonstrate once again their expertise in aerospace research and development.

The six firms joining Marietta in the quest for space station work include Hamilton Standard of Windsor Locks, Conn.; Wyle Laboratories and McDonnell Douglas Technical Services, both of Huntsville, Ala.; Honeywell Space and Strategic Avionics Division of Clearwater, Fla.; Hercules Inc. of Salt Lake City, Utah; and Hughes Aircraft's Microelectronics Division of Irvine, Calif.

"This top-notch team incorporates experience gained in many of the programs that have been the forerunners of the space station, including the Skylab program of the 1970s, during which astronauts lived and worked in space for prolonged periods," said Caleb B. Hurtt, president of Martin Marietta Aerospace.

Hurtt said that each company was chosen "for expertise in a specific area of responsibility" and because of their "overall experience in space systems -- especially manned space systems."

He said that Marietta's space station work would be conducted near Denver.