The impact of network acuity on information sharing under communication delays in space multiteam systems

Kyosuke Tanaka, Leslie A. DeChurch, Noshir S. Contractor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Communication delays in long-distance space missions present a significant challenge for effective information sharing within multiteam system, including space crews and mission support. Crews and mission support need to leverage their indirect contacts (e.g., contacts' contacts) to route messages effectively. However, information-sharing failures lead to accidents on space missions. These failures result from an individual's lack of awareness of the networks of their contacts. We introduce the concept of network acuity to characterize an individual's perceptual accuracy of the networks of their contacts. We ask three research questions related to network acuity. What are the levels of network acuity among crews and mission support? How does communication delays impact individuals' network acuity? Which individual characteristics predict network acuity? We collected data from NASA's Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA), Campaign 3 and 4. We studied nine different, 4-member crews, each interacting on a simulated task with an 8-member mission support (MS) (N = 251). Data was collected using a web-based tool Project RED Relay where the crew and MS engage in a network routing task. Due to “bandwidth constraints,” they were instructed to choose only two direct contacts (from 11 others) to relay messages sent by JPL to a final destination in order to implement a decision. They each receive messages that must be relayed to specific others in the crew-MS system in the fewest number of steps. In total, we conducted 53, 12-person relay sessions. Each session was assigned to either a 180-second communication delay, a 60-second communication delay, or no communication delay condition. We measured network acuity based on the extent to which each individual routed message through their contact who was on the shortest path to the destination. Our results show that network acuity among HERA crews was significantly higher than MS members in Campaign 4, but not Campaign 3. Additionally, we found communication delays did not impact network acuity among HERA crews, but reduced acuity among MS members. Further, crew members who scored lower on the personality characteristic of conscientiousness had higher network acuity in both Campaigns 3 and 4. Finally, crews' network acuity was associated with personality characteristics of openness to experience, agreeableness, and neuroticism in Campaign 4, but not Campaign 3. Overall, our findings suggest that selecting crews with high network acuity will play a key role in alleviating the risk of information-sharing failures within a multiteam system under conditions of communication delays.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
StatePublished - 2020
Event71st International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Oct 12 2020Oct 14 2020


  • Communication delay
  • Information sharing
  • Isolation
  • Network acuity
  • Team process

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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