Charles Ellingson Zeleny, 59, a research psychologist in the office of policy and planning of ACTION, died Tuesday at Fairfax Hospital after a heart attack.

With ACTION since 1971, he had participated in many new demonstration programs, including the cooperative volunteer program. He was currently manager of a contract involving the National Council on Aging.

Before his work with ACTION, Mr. Zeleny had been chief of the evaluation and selection branch at VISTA headquarters here from 1966 to 1969, when he became chief of volunteer placements.

Born in Champaign, Ill., Mr. Zeleny received bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Illinois. During World War II, he served in the Pacific with the Army and the Army Air Corps.

During 1949-52, he was a civilian research psychologist at the Human Resources Research Center at Chanute Air Force base in Illinois. He then spent two years as a research assistant at the University of Illinois.

Mr. Zeleny later was chief of the human factors branch of the Electronic Warfare Department at Ft. Huachuca, Ariz.

Before coming to Washington in 1966, he was a research psychologist and project leader with the Bendix Corp. systems division in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was a member of the team that designed the Apollo Lunar Scientific Experiments Package (ALSEP) that is now on the moon.

He was a member of the American and D.C. Psychology associations, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

He is survived by his wife, Marjorie, and a son, Charles, of the home in McLean, and a daughter, Ann Z. Munson, of Richmond, Va.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be made to the American Heart Association.