WASHINGTON — Swales Aerospace is pushing behind the scenes for NASA to split a $400 million engineering support contract that is back up for grabs following a bid protest.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., selected SGT Inc. in December to support various projects and programs under a five-year Mechanical Systems Engineering Services (MSES) II/A contract. That work had long belonged to Swales.

Swales protested the award, prompting NASA to direct SGT, based in Greenbelt, to suspend its transition activities. NASA also temporarily extended Swales’ contract to ensure Goddard was not left short-handed during the protest adjudication. In mid January, NASA went a step further and rescinded SGT’s award, notifying both companies that it would be re-evaluating the two proposals and making a new award by mid March.

NASA Goddard spokesman Edward Campion said March 19, however, that the agency intended to allow the companies to submit additional information to support their bids and that a new award was expected “before the end of May and possibly sooner.”

Meanwhile, in early February, Beltsville, Md.-based Swales filed a lawsuit in Prince George’s County, Md., Circuit Court, accusing Nicholas M. Galassi of Bethesda, Md. — a former Swales employee and now a consultant — of using proprietary Swales information to help SGT, one of his clients, prepare its bid on the Goddard engineering support contract.

Galassi, a former Swales engineer who left the company in October 2005 to start Aerostress Inc., acknowledged in the initial response to the lawsuit filed with the court that he worked for SGT as a consultant in 2006, but said he did not give proprietary Swales information to SGT.

A March 22 telephone call to Galassi was not immediately returned. SGT is not named in the lawsuit, and the allegations against Galassi have not been mentioned in the Swales bid protest.

SGT spokesman Harry Solomon, in a written response to questions from Space News, said SGT “states categorically that it did not seek, obtain, or use proprietary information belonging to Swales or any other competitor in preparing the SGT proposal to NASA.” The statement goes on to say that “SGT is confident that NASA will conclude the MSES II/A procurement process in a fair and equitable manner.”

Swales spokesman Mark Anderes said in a written statement: “This matter is extremely serious and was raised a few weeks ago. Mr. Galassi and Aerostress worked on both sides of the proposal in the same general areas of proposal work.”

In its lawsuit, Swales claims Galassi “drafted critical components of Swales’ proposal and representative task orders for the procurement in question” and “then reviewed SGT’s proposal in the very areas of expertise that he had provided” for Swales.

Galassi refuted that allegation in the initial response to the lawsuit his attorneys filed with the Prince George’s County court. While acknowledging that Galassi did review SGT’s bid in his role as a consultant, his attorneys state in their response to the suit that “neither Aerostress nor Mr. Galassi at any time used or disclosed to SGT any information regarding Swales’ proposed solutions … or any confidential information or trade secrets of Swales.”

In additional to suing Galassi, Swales has pleaded its case to its congressional representatives, namely Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. All three Maryland Democrats were sent letters by Swales Chief Executive Officer Mike Cerneck updating them on the contract dispute, informing them of the subsequent lawsuit, and making the case for NASA to split the MSES II/A contract between Swales and SGT.

“Although I am encouraged at NASA’s agreement for a continuing re-evaluation, there is a lamentable prospect of more disputes and negative publicity involving two Maryland companies, regardless of who is selected,” Cerneck wrote in a March 9 letter obtained by Space News. “We at Swales Aerospace seek to create a solution in order to best serve NASA, GSFC [Goddard Space Flight Center] and the Nation. I believe the solution of a dual award is a plausible option to a drawn out dispute while still allowing NASA and all parties involved to develop.”

Anderes did not comment on Swales seeking a dual award beyond saying, “This matter is entirely in the hands of NASA.”

The Goddard support contract was a cornerstone piece of business for Swales, a company that was started in 1978 and has since grown to 900 people providing engineering services and building small satellites and satellite parts and subsystems. The Goddard work now in dispute provides work for about one-third of Swales’ work force, company officials said in January.

SGT employs 875 people and also provides engineering support services to NASA and other government customers. Originally known as Stinger-Ghaffarian Technologies, the company was founded by Harold Stinger in 1995 after a three-year stint working for Swales, according to court documents.

In a sworn affidavit filed with the lawsuit, Swales founder and chairman of the board Thomas Swales said that he and Stinger “have remained on friendly terms.”