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US Space Force announces first non-domestic cooperative deal with Indian tech companies

The US Space Force has announced its first non-domestic Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with two Indian start-ups, 3rd ITECH and 114AI.

The historic agreement will involve artificial intelligence firm 114AI, which builds dual-use software for domain awareness, and India’s sole image sensor company 3rd ITECH, working in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate to develop Earth observation sensors and space domain awareness.

“I have had the pleasure of meeting with many companies and universities while in India and am consistently impressed by the talent of the country’s engineers and scientists, and eagerness to collaborate with our Space Force,” according to Merrick Garb, Pentagon Headquarters Space Force Global Partnerships Directorate commercial, civil and interagency partnerships branch chief.

“It is exciting when mutually beneficial collaborations, such as this agreement with 114AI and 3rd ITECH, are signed to advance the state-of-the-art in space domain awareness and Earth observation sensor technologies.”


The signing of the agreement was followed by a joint leader’s statement from President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the White House on 22 June 2023.

That statement also emphasised the establishment and launch of the India–US Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) network fostering joint defence technology innovation between the two country’s universities, start-ups, industry, and think tanks as part of the US–India initiative on critical and emerging technology.

“This CRADA represents a significant step forward in our quest to push the collaborative boundaries of space technology,” according to Dr Wellesley Pereira, AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate Space Information Mobility mission area lead.

“By bringing together the best minds and resources from different nations, we can achieve breakthroughs with mutually beneficial results.


“We are very appreciative to the entire team that worked to make this happen, including Vrinda Kapoor and Vinayak Dalmia at 114AI and 3rd ITECH, Merrick Garb at Headquarters Space Force, and Melissa Ortiz, tech transfer agreements specialist lead Space Vehicles Directorate.”

The signing of the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) and the broader INDUS-X initiative aligns with AFRL’s partnerships and the Space Vehicles Directorate’s mission to develop the latest in space component technology and transition to provide space-based capabilities to the nation.

“This is the beginning of an amazing relationship being the first collaborative effort to work with an Indian start-up,” Melissa Ortiz said.

“Looking forward to seeing many more collaborations that will evolve through this effort.”

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