WASHINGTON — The Air Force Research Laboratory on Oct. 26 announced new Cooperative Research and Development Agreements, or CRADAs, between the U.S. Space Force and two Indian startups. 

The agreements are with artificial intelligence startup 114AI, which builds dual-use software for space domain awareness, and 3rd Itech, an imaging sensor supplier and developer of computer chips, integrated circuits and other semiconductor technologies.

These are the Space Force’s first CRADA with non-U.S. companies. 

The companies will work with AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate to advance “innovation in Earth observation sensors and space domain awareness,” AFRL said. 

The CRADAs are part of a Biden administration initiative to promote joint technology development with India. The U.S. Department of Defense and the Indian Ministry of Defense in June announced the India-U.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X), an effort to bring together universities, startups and think tanks to work on emerging technologies. 

U.S. defense contractor General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, which manufacturers advanced unmanned aircraft for the Pentagon, last year announced strategic partnerships with both 114AI and 3rd Itech.

Space domain awareness, Earth observation

“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 at the Global Partnerships Directorate of the U.S. Space Force.

He said the agreements with 114AI and 3rd Itech seek to “advance the state-of-the-art in space domain awareness and Earth observation sensor technologies.”

“This CRADA represents a significant step forward in our quest to push the collaborative boundaries of space technology,” said Wellesley Pereira, mission area lead for space information mobility at AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...