NASA has chosen Grumman Aerospace Corp. for a space station support contract worth a potential $1.2 billion in the largest contract award yet in the $14 billion project.

Former Apollo astronaut Fred Haise, a Grumman Aerospace vice president in charge of the project, said this week that the contract to coordinate and integrate assembly of the space station will require about 1,000 administrators, engineers and technicians.

Grumman's Space Station Program Support Division in Bethpage, N.Y., will negotiate the details of the cost-plus-award-fee contract.

Most of the work force will be based in the Washington area. NASA is in the process of establishing a space station program office in Reston.

"Space played a major role in Grumman's past, and it is important to our future," company Chairman John Bierwirth said in a statement. Grumman built the Apollo program lunar landers and the space shuttle's wings.

The company's proposed cost for the "space station program support contract" is $841 million over 11 years with a price option for another $406 million.

TRW's Space Station Services Division of Redondo Beach, Calif., was the only other company to submit a proposal.

"This is the engineering support for the program office," said NASA space station spokesman Mark Hess.

"These are the arms and the legs and the number of the bodies that will work with the program office in doing a lot of the engineering analysis, the integration of all these components, helping maintain the documentation. We don't have the bodies to do that job. We get help from the support contractor."

NASA hopes to have the space station in operation by 1996 and contracts to begin construction of hardware for the orbital outpost are expected to be announced in November.

"This is a very complex task, to pull together hardware being developed at four {NASA} centers and by three foreign partners," Hess said.

"What NASA and this contractor have got to do is make sure once the hardware gets down to the Cape it comes together and works, and once it gets assembled in orbit it works properly."