Head Injury Study on Bridges Validates NASA Safety Testing

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Simulations of the two most popular types of physical crash-test dummies—called “anthropomorphic test devices,” or ATDs, in the trade (left)as well as a Human Body Model (HBM), a computer-simulated human being (right), experiencing a straight-down collision in a spacecraft seat.

Feb. 13, 2020

Designing safety restraints for a spacecraft is much more difficult than designing them for automobiles. Injuries that are tolerable after a car crash can prevent an astronaut from exiting a capsule that’s just landed in the water. Also, unlike in a car, impacts are far more likely to come from any direction. Since an Earthward-bound spacecraft crashes every time—each Earth landing is actually a crash—NASA has adopted an extremely low-tolerance policy toward even minor injuries.

That’s why scientists from Wake Forest School of Medicine carried out an extensive series of computer simulations on the two most popular types of crash-test dummies—called “anthropomorphic test devices,” or ATDs, in the trade. The team also compared the results on the ATDs to a Human Body Model (HBM), a computer-simulated human being. Thanks to the power and user-friendliness of PSC’s Bridges platform, they were able to carry out extensive simulations of each dummy experiencing impacts from different directions in seats facing different directions. They confirmed that the ATDs and HBM produced very similar head-injury metrics in impacts. The simulated results increase confidence that spacecraft manufacturers can design seats and restraints that will be safe in multiple types of impact, with a limited number of tests with physical ATDs. The researchers reported their results in the January 2020 issue of Traffic Injury Prevention.

Read the paper.