New vehicles are currently being developed to transport crews to space by NASA and several commercial companies. During the takeoff and landing phase, vehicle occupants are typically exposed to spinal and frontal loading. To reduce the risk of injuries during these common impact scenarios, NASA has begun research to develop new safety standards for spaceflight. The THOR, an advanced multi-directional crash test dummy, was chosen by NASA to evaluate occupant spacecraft safety due to its improved biofidelity.

Recently, a series of modifications were completed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to improve the bio-fidelity of the THOR dummy. The updated THOR Modification Kit (THOR-K) dummy was tested at Wright-Patterson (WP) Air Base in various impact configurations, including frontal and spinal loading. A computational finite element (FE) model of the THOR was developed in LS-DYNA software and was recently updated to match the latest dummy modifications. The main goal of this study was to calibrate and validate the FE model of the THOR-K dummy for use in future spacecraft safety studies.

An optimization-based method was developed to calibrate the material properties of the pelvic flesh model under quasi-static and dynamic loading conditions. Data in a simple compression test of pelvic flesh were used for the quasi-static calibration. The whole dummy kinematic and kinetic response under spinal loading conditions was used for the dynamic calibration. The performance of the calibrated dummy model was evaluated by simulating a separate dummy test with a different crash pulse along the spinal direction. In addition, a frontal dummy test was also simulated with the calibrated model. The model response was compared with test data by calculating its correlation score using the CORA rating system.

Overall, the calibrated THOR-K dummy model responded with high similarity to the physical dummy in all validation tests. Therefore, confidence is provided in the dummy model for use in predicting response in other test conditions such as those observed in the spacecraft landing.

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