MassChallenge kicks off 2013 applications with expansion to Israel — and space

It’s opening day for the MassChallenge Startup Accelerator, and the program didn’t waste the moment in the spotlight: Patriots owner Bob Kraft joined in the celebrations and announced he was helping the program expand to Israel and beyond.

Far beyond, in fact: MassChallenge now has a partnership with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to take a start-up (or at least its experiments and products) to space aboard the International Space Station National Laboratory. CASIS is also offering a new $100,000 prize for the start-up that it thinks can best utilize the “unique microgravity environment and vantage point of the ISS to develop intellectual property and/or applications.”

The big news, however, was the expansion of MassChallenge to Israel, funded by a four-year commitment from Kraft to replicate the program, still under the MassChallenge banner, overseas.

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The program will tap “expert partners to identify the most promising Israeli startups and help them access key customers and resources in the U.S. market via a specialized program within the MassChallenge accelerator,” according to a release.

“In three decades of doing business in Israel, I’ve come to appreciate the strength of its innovation economy,” Kraft said.

Kraft signed the MassChallenge whiteboard wall after the announcement:

MassChallenge also announced strategic partnerships in Colombia, Mexico, and the Russian Federation, to bring entrepreneurs from those areas to work and meet local resources, investors, and talent.