US Space Force in Collaboration with AFRL Enters into First-Ever CRADAs with Two Indian Start-ups


New Delhi: To facilitate cooperation in cutting-edge technologies without the exchange of federal funds to industry partners, the United States Space Force, in collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), has entered into its first-ever Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) with two Indian startups, 114AI and 3rd ITECH.

These CRADAs signify a significant step in advancing innovation in Earth observation sensors and space domain awareness, as stated in AFRL’s media statement. They entail the exchange of expertise, access to laboratory space, and provision of equipment. The agreements come in the wake of a landmark meeting in June between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden. During this meeting, they launched the India-US Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) to enhance cooperation in the defence industry and technology sharing.

During his first official state visit, Prime Minister Modi also signed up India to the NASA-led Artemis Accords. These accords establish norms for space exploration and exploitation and are a crucial component of the United States’ strategy to prevent future conflicts in space. This strategy is particularly important as nations seek access to orbital real estate, including cislunar space, water resources, and strategic minerals. The Artemis Accords also serve as a diplomatic counterweight to China, which has been expanding its space portfolio and lunar ambitions.

Both 114AI and 3rd ITECH have previously signed strategic partnerships with General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems (GA-AS) in San Diego. 3rd ITECH and GA-AS joined forces to co-design and co-develop cutting-edge semiconductor technology. Simultaneously, GA-AS formed a separate agreement with 114ai to apply artificial intelligence tools to multi-domain awareness.

Back in 2020, 114ai gained recognition by winning an award during the US-UK-sponsored “International Space Pitch Day.” This competition, supported by the UK Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) and Starburst Accelerator, invited startups from around the world to showcase their innovations. 114ai was among the ten startups from the UK, the US, and Australia to receive kick-start funds.

With India and the United States working together to advance technology and strengthen their positions in the rapidly evolving space industry, these CRADAs mark a significant milestone in international space cooperation.