Joseph Y. Yuen, 71, a retired civilian researcher with the Naval Research Laboratory here who was active in church organizations, died of cardiac arrest Saturday at the Southern Maryland Hospital in Clinton. He was a resident of Oxon Hill.

Mr. Yuen joined the Navy Department following World War II. He was an electronics technician and power supply specialist who worked on miniaturized transmitters for rockets and the possibililty of solar cells as a source of power for satelliltes before retiring in 1973.

In 1962 he was given the Navy's Meritorious Service Medal. He also earned the nickname "Mr. Mini-track" for his design work on miniature transmitters used in Vanguard satelites.

Mr. Yuen was a member of the Chinese Community Church in Washington where he had been chairman of the board of trustees, special events chairman, and chairman of its citizen fellowship committee.Since retiring from the government, he had been active in the Church's Chinatown Outpost, which provides social services for Washington's Chinese community.

Born in Canton, China, Mr. Yuen was reared in Washington and attended the Eastern Radio Institute in Boston. He served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II.

Survivors include his wife of 34 years, the former Elsie Chin, of Oxon Hill; a son, Jonathan, of Ithaca, N.Y.; three daughters, Elaine Wickenhiser of Philadelphia, Effie Joan Yuen of New York, and Grace Yuen of Madison, Wis.; a brother, George, of Washington, and four grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Chinese Community Church in Washington for its Service Center Project.