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Aerospace Firm Contracted to Study Takata Airbag Failures

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 2/27/2015 Kelly Pleskot

Orbital ATK, a Virginia-based aerospace company, will conduct an independent study on the underlying causes behind Takata's defective airbags, which have been linked to six deaths and 64 injuries to date.

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A group of automakers -- including BMW, Fiat, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota -- has enlisted help from Orbital as part of an industry-wide joint testing effort, The Detroit News reports. David Kelly, former acting administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will serve as project manager and coordinator.

Orbital ATK will conduct engineering tests for the airbag inflators, and will make sure the same problems don't occur in replacement airbags. Automakers have recalled 17 million Takata airbags since 2008 because the devices may release sharp metal fragments when deployed during a crash.

The automakers asked an aerospace firm to join the effort because airbags work in a similar way to a solid rocket booster. These devices use a solid propellant to create gas, providing enough force to inflate an airbag quickly during a crash. The more than 12,000 people employed by the company work on launch vehicles, propulsion systems, and a number of other projects for the space, defense, and aviation fields.

2015 Kia Sorento IIHS Airbag Deployment After Crash 02© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Kia Sorento IIHS Airbag Deployment After Crash 02

NHTSA is also keeping a close eye on Takata and its airbags. Most recently, the government agency fined Takata $14,000 per day for each day it fails to "fully cooperate" with its ongoing investigation. NHTSA is asking the Japanese supplier to properly describe the contents of the 2.5 million pages of documents it turned over. In a response, Takata said it was "surprised and disappointed" with how the agency is handling the matter. Takata is also now required by NHTSA to allocate 10 percent of its airbag inflators for testing purposes.

Note: The above image shows airbags deploying in a Kia Sorento, which is not included in the Takata recalls.

Source: The Detroit News

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