In a move that could cost Northern Virginia more than 1,000 jobs and a prominent high-tech employer, NASA is considering whether to relocate a Reston facility that manages the nation's $20 billion space station program.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, under orders from Congress to overhaul its space station plans, is debating whether the oversight and management duties now performed at Reston should be moved to a larger NASA installation elsewhere, officials say. A decision is expected sometime next month.

The Reston facility oversees work being performed at five NASA centers and employs more than 200 people, most of them engineers and support staff. NASA and Virginia officials say the center also provides work for at least 800 more people at aerospace firms who work on the space station. If the Reston facility moves, they say, the private jobs will go with it.

In recent years, Virginia has tried to cultivate a space technology industry in Northern Virginia. The space station facility, which opened about three years ago, was a major boost to that effort. Officials say losing it would be a significant setback.

"We're very concerned," said Pat Spurlock, an aide to Sen. Charles S. Robb (D-Va.). "The fact that you have the space station {facility} located {in Northern Virginia} gives a certain amount of security to contractors and subcontractors that have located there. {A move} would not have a positive effect."

Fairfax County Board Chairman Audrey Moore said that keeping the facility "would be important any time, but it's particularly important now that times are tougher.

"This is just the type of industry we want here," Moore said. "Other businesses are here because of NASA. But when we are in an economic downturn, you really feel the impact of these things."

The NASA facility is one of three federal installations that have sparked political battles involving Northern Virginia officials in recent months. In the other two cases, lawmakers from Virginia have battled their counterparts from Maryland for facilities that could generate economic growth in the areas where they locate.

The National Science Foundation recently announced plans to move from the District to Arlington's Ballston area after a tough behind-the-scenes battle involving Maryland legislators. The two states also competed for an annex to the National Air and Space Museum that currently is planned for a site near Dulles International Airport. The city of Denver is still trying to win the museum, and a congressional hearing on the issue is scheduled next month.

Mark Hess, a NASA spokesman, said the decision to locate the space station oversight facility in Reston has been debated inside the agency ever since it was made.

Some NASA officials have argued that the oversight facility should be located at a site where some part of the space station construction will take place, such as the Johnson Space Center in Houston or the Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Ala. Others say it should be independent of those centers to prevent any one of them from dominating the project.

The argument picked up steam when Congress ordered NASA to revise its space station plans drastically, citing budget concerns. The NASA official in charge of the program is William B. Lenoir, assistant administrator for space flight.

Lenoir met this week with Robb, a member of the Senate's science, technology and space subcommittee. Robb contended in a letter that moving the oversight facility from Reston "would delay the deployment of the station by as much as two years and would likely result in additional cost overruns."

Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) and Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) also have appealed to White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu to keep the facility in Reston.

Hess said that NASA will announce its decision as part of an overall management review, probably next month.