Dr. Frank Louis Adelman, 55, a physicist who was senior member of the research staff of the System Planning Corporation in Arlington, died of respiratory failure Jan. 21 at a hospital in Charlottesville, Va.

Dr. Adelman joined System Planning, a consulting company that does work for various government agencies, in 1972. He worked on sutdies involving energy problems and nuclear weapons effects.

From 1948 to 1962, he had been with the Lawrence and the Livermore laboratories in California where he worked on the design and testing of nuclear weapons.

He came to Washington in 1962 and spent four years with the Institute for Defense Analysis where he helped conduct nuclear weapons studies. In 1966 he moved to the Chicago area and became director of foundation research planning at Northwestern University. He also taught geophysics and did work in urban affairs studies before returning to Washington.

De. Adelman was a native a New Jersey and a resident of Annandale. He was a 1945 graduate of wesleyan University. He earned a master's degree in physics at Columbia University in 1947 and a doctoral degree in physics at the University of California at Berkeley in 1951.

His marriage to Irma Adelman of Berkeley enden in divorce.

De. Adelman's survivors include his wife, Norma, of Annandale; a son by his first marriage, Alex, of Berkeley, and three stepchildren, Jacqueline, Charles B., and Robert J. Roy, all of Annandale.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to a charity of one choice.