The Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat (SPARCS) is a 6U CubeSat under construction that is devoted to the photometric monitoring of M stars in the far-UV (FUV) and near-UV (NUV), to measure the time-dependent spectral slope, intensity and evolution of low-mass star high-energy radiation. We report on the progress made in the assembly, integration and test of the instrument payload at Arizona State University using a custom TVAC chamber and optical stimulus that provides calibration light sources and the custom contamination control environment that the FUV demands. The payload consists of a custom 90mm clear aperture telescope developed by Hexagon/Sigma Space, combined with a dichroic plate to separate the FUV and NUV beams developed by Teledyne Acton and Materion, married with twin focal plane array cameras separately optimized for their bandpasses as developed by JPL.
Roughly 40 billion M dwarfs in our galaxy host at least one small planet in the habitable zone (HZ). The stellar ultraviolet (UV) radiation from M dwarfs is strong and highly variable, and impacts planetary atmospheric loss, composition and habitability. These effects are amplified by the extreme proximity of their HZs (0.1–0.4 AU). Knowing the UV environments of M dwarf planets will be crucial to understanding their atmospheric composition and a key parameter in discriminating between biological and abiotic sources for observed biosignatures. The Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat (SPARCS) will be a 6U CubeSat devoted to photometric monitoring of M stars in the far-UV and near-UV, measuring the time-dependent spectral slope, intensity and evolution of low-mass star high-energy radiation.