Richard W. Cole, 64, a member of the principal professional staff of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, died Friday at St. Joseph's Hospital in Baltimore after apparently suffering a heart attack. He was stricken while shopping in Baltimore.

Mr. Cole was supervisor of reliability and quality control of spacecraft and space instrumentation in the laboratory's space department. He was to have retired at the end of this month.

He had joined the laboratory in 1946 to work on development of the first antiaircraft guided missiles to defend the U.S. fleet. He pioneered in the electronic design of the Terrier and Talos missiles, which with Tartar, were the first to guard a Navy fleet.

Mr. Cole also was a specialist in guidance and missile control systems. He was named to head reliability and testing at the start of the space program at the laboratory in the 1950s.

He was in LaGrange, Ind., and grew up in Kalamazoo, Mich.He graduated from Michigan State College, and after serving with the Navy in World War Ii earned a master's degree in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University. He also took graduate work at the University of Michigan.

Mr. Cole was a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. He was active in both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts. He belonged to woodside United Methodist Church in Silver Spring.

He is survived by his wife, Eloise, and a daughter, Kathryn, both of the home in Silver Spring; two other daughters, Barbara D'Onofrio and Marolyn Bibber, both of South Harpswell, Miane; a son, Richard W.Jr., of Silver Spring, and a sister, Caroline Newell, of Camillus, N.Y.