Data acquisition system
DTS (Diversified Technical Systems)
Seal Beach, CA

Aircraft impact testing and hard landing tests are an important part of research for understanding crash dynamics and improving occupant safety at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. DTS small, onboard data acquisition systems (DAS) are used in many tests at Langley, since they are rugged enough to survive harsh impacts and still accurately deliver critical test data.

Technicians hoisted the 10,500-pound helicopter 30 feet into the air before dropping it at 30 mph. (Photo David C. Bowman)
In a recent test, a 45-foot-long CH-46E Sea Knight marine helicopter was dropped 30 feet at 30 miles an hour during the Transport Rotorcraft Airframe Crash Testbed (TRACT 2) full-scale crash test at Langley. The helicopter had 13 instrumented crash test manikins and two non-instrumented manikins onboard, along with DTS data acquisition systems. Cables hauled the helicopter fuselage into the air and then swung it to the ground, much like a pendulum. Just before impact, pyrotechnic devices released the suspension cables from the helicopter to allow free flight of the 10,500-pound fuselage and its “passengers.”

Crash test manikins designed to measure human injury and survivability were equipped with sensors and DTS TDAS G5 data acquisition systems to record test data. (Photo David C. Bowman)
Nearly 40 cameras and 350 data channels recorded every move. Even the helicopter’s unusual black and white speckled paint job was part of a special camera technique called full field photogrammetry, designed to capture detailed movement. High-speed cameras filming 500 images per second track each dot so researchers can see exactly how the fuselage buckled, cracked, or collapsed under crash loads.

Currently, NASA uses DTS’s miniature onboard DAS at four different facilities for a wide variety of dynamic tests, including Orion space capsule re-entry splashdown testing, heavy payload and flight testing, aerobrake testing, and low-density supersonic decelerator testing for the next-generation Mars lander.

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