Two Indian Start-ups Partner U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Space Technologies

114AI and 3rdTECH are collaborating with AFRL to advance innovation in space domain awareness and Earth observation sensor technologies
  • Bureau
  • 05:24 AM, October 26, 2023
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Two Indian Start-ups Partner U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Space Technologies

In a historic first, two Indian startups, 114AI, an artificial intelligence firm that develops dual-use software for domain awareness, and 3rd ITECH, India's sole image sensor company, will partner with the Air Force Research Lab's Space Vehicles Directorate.

This is the first time that AFRL will work with non-U.S. entities in a cutting-edge area of research. AFRL scientists are leading the first non-domestic Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRADA, between the U.S. Space Force and companies located outside the U.S. This signing marked the U.S. Space Force’s first non-domestic CRADA with any industry partner.

The CRADA will foster collaborative efforts in cutting-edge technologies, marking a significant milestone in advancing innovation in Earth observation sensors and space domain awareness.

The signing of the agreement gained attention and led to a joint leader's statement by President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Modi's visit to the White House on June 22, 2023.

The statement emphasized the establishment and launch of the India-U.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem, or INDUS-X, a network fostering joint defense technology innovation between the two countries' universities, startups, industry, and think tanks as part of the U.S.-India initiative on critical and emerging technology, or iCET.

INDUS-X includes various short-, mid- and long-term goals. Short-term goals involve joint challenges, academic partnerships, mentor-protégé programs, a senior adviser group, or SAG, and think tank roundtables. Mid-term goals include an accelerator program for defense startups, collaboration with major defense firm supply chains, and the establishment of innovation and testing labs for startups. In the long term, the goals include an Indo-U.S. Joint Innovation Fund, easing regulations for cross-border development and trade, and standardization of certifications for technology startups.

“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,” said Merrick Garb, commercial, civil, and interagency partnerships branch chief, Global Partnerships Directorate, Headquarters Space Force, Pentagon. “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.”

Dr. Wellesley Pereira, mission area lead for Space Information Mobility at AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, shared his enthusiasm for the project.

"This CRADA represents a significant step forward in our quest to push the collaborative boundaries of space technology,” Pereira said. By bringing together the best minds and resources from different nations, we can achieve breakthroughs with mutually beneficial results. We are very appreciative of 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."

114AI joined AFRL’s Space Domain Awareness Accelerator a few years ago as the first international participant.

The signing of the CRADA and the broader INDUS-X initiative align 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.

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