A SpaceX rocket carrying technology built at UMass Lowell is expected to blast off on Saturday, Feb. 18 for the International Space Station (ISS), where the device will take pictures of the Earth’s atmosphere for future study.

Called the Limb-Imaging Ionospheric and Thermospheric Extreme Ultraviolet Spectrograph (LITES), the device is designed to take images of different wavelengths of ultraviolet light and make visible the atoms and molecules in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, what scientists know as the “ionosphere.” By studying these images, scientists hope to learn how the ionosphere’s irregularities affect radio signals, as a way to improve how satellites and GPS navigational tools function.

Leading the project is UMass Lowell Physics Prof. Supriya Chakrabarti, who directs the university’s Lowell Center for Space, Science and Technology (LOCSST) and is the Kennedy College of Sciences associate dean of graduate studies and research. LITES was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The device will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Fla., and remain mounted to the ISS for the next one to two years.