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Free Content An Extravehicular Suit Impact Load Attenuation Study to Improve Astronaut Bone Fracture Prediction

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Sulkowski CM, Gilkey KM, Lewandowski BE, Samorezov S, Myers Jr JG. An extravehicular suit impact load attenuation study to improve astronaut bone fracture prediction. Aviat Space Environ Med 2011; 82:455–62.

Introduction: Understanding the contributions to the risk of bone fracture during spaceflight is essential for mission success. Methods: A pressurized extravehicular activity (EVA) suit analogue test bed was developed, impact load attenuation data were obtained, and the load at the hip of an astronaut who falls to the side during an EVA was characterized. Offset (representing the gap between the EVA suit and the astronaut's body), impact load magnitude, and EVA suit operating pressure were factors varied in the study. The attenuation data were incorporated into a probabilistic model of bone fracture risk during spaceflight, replacing the previous load attenuation value that was based on commercial hip protector data. Results: Load attenuation was more dependent on offset than on pressurization or load magnitude, especially at small offset values. Load attenuation factors for offsets between 0.1–1.5 cm were 0.69 ± 0.15, 0.49 ± 0.22, and 0.35 ± 0.18 for mean impact forces of 4827, 6400, and 8467 N, respectively. Load attenuation factors for offsets of 2.8–5.3 cm were 0.93 ± 0.2, 0.94 ± 0.1, and 0.84 ± 0.5 for the same mean impact forces. The mean and 95th percentile bone fracture risk index predictions were each reduced by 65–83%. The mean and 95th percentile bone fracture probability predictions were both reduced approximately 20–50%. Discussion: The reduction in uncertainty and improved confidence in bone fracture predictions increased the fidelity and credibility of the fracture risk model and its benefit to mission design and in-flight operational decisions.

Keywords: bone mineral density; impact load to hip; non-conformal fit; side fall; space exploration missions

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2011

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