On his Medium.com blog, Mohsen Tahmasebi has posted an article about his journey into listening to satellites which started with his acquisition of an RTL-SDR Blog V3 dongle. The article begins by explaining his motivations for receiving satellites and how difficult hobbies like this are to get into in his home country of Iran. Despite the challenges he tasted success when he was able to receive NOAA APT signals on his second attempt using the included portable dipole antenna in a V-dipole configuration. Shortly after Mohsen was also able to receive Meteor-M2 LRPT.
Mohsen then built a more permanent V-dipole out of copper rods and optimized his antenna using NEC simulation software, finding that adding a reflector significantly improved reception. He then moved on to building a slightly more complex Turnstile antenna, which yielded even better results and allowed him to explore CubeSats at 435 MHz and contribute to SatNOGS. Finally, Mohsen ordered a Bullseye LNB and using a homemade bias tee, he received the QO-100 amateur radio transponder.
Overall, Mohsen's journey demonstrates that there is a lot of fun and learning available from internationally available satellites even in a country where equipment is hard to come by.
Meteor M2 is a Russian meteorological satellite whose LRPT transmissions at 137 MHz were relatively easily received by anyone with a simple satellite antenna and an RTL-SDR and computer. Meteor M2 was launched in July 2014, and it should not be confused with Meteor M2-1 which failed on launch in 2017 due to an upper stage deployment issue, or Meteor M2-2 which suffered a micrometeorite strike in 2019.
Unfortunately it appears that Meteor M2 has permanently failed on 24 December 2022. Problems with the Meteor M2 satellite losing orientation stability have occurred several times in the past, and have always been fixed within a few days after the event. There was initially hope that after the holidays when the engineers returned to work that the problem would be fixed. However @Serge, a Russian radio amateur who talks with Meteor engineers on Russian amateur radio forums has recently mentioned on Twitter that recovery seems unlikely.
As well as @Serge's twitter, Happysat keeps track of Meteor M2 satellites on his Meteor M2 status page so keep an eye there for any updates. At the moment all LRPT transmissions have been turned off.
In 2019 the Meteor M2-2 (the third M2 satellite) also failed in December due to a micrometeorite strike. Meteor M N2-2 was partially recovered, and while it can no longer transmit LRPT, it can still transmit HRPT in the L-band, when in sunlight.
The good news is that Meteor M2-3 is due to be launched in 2023, and this will hopefully bring back LRPT reception. Currently the only weather image satellites transmitting at 137 MHz are NOAA-15, NOAA-18 and NOAA-19. NOAA-15 still lives, but may be slowly failing. NOAA-18 and NOAA-19 are also aging satellites but show no signs of wear so far.
If you are interested in satellite reception and want to future proof your setup against more 137 MHz band satellite failures, we recommend looking in LRIT/HRIT or HRPT satellite reception which is a little more complex, but has become significantly easier to get started with in recent times.
Over on YouTube @dereksgc has been putting together a comprehensive video series on weather, amateur and other satellite reception. His series starts with receiving images from NOAA APT satellites, then Meteor M2, as then goes on to talk about low cost V-Dipole satellite antennas, how satellite dishes work, and recently how to use Ku-band LNBs with a satellite dish.
If you're getting started with RTL-SDR and satellite reception, this video series may be a good introduction for you.
Downloading images directly from weather satellites || Satellite reception pt.1
SatDump is a popular piece of software that can be used with RTL-SDRs and other software defined radios for decoding images from a wide array of weather imaging satellites including GOES, GK-2A, NOAA HRPT, FengYun, Electro-L and Meteor M2 LRPT + HRPT, and many others (note: there is no APT support at the moment, but it is planned for the future). It is compatible with Windows, Linux and even has an Android APK available.
Thanks to a tweet by @rf_hacking we recently came across an interesting project called "r2cloud". This is an open source program provided on a ready to use image for the Raspberry Pi that can be used to set up an automated satellite recording station for NOAA APT and Meteor LRPT signals, as well as for CubeSats.
The software presents a web based user interface that is easy to setup and view decoded images on. It appears that the software also communicates with a public server that can aggregate and log your data, and also provide it to SatNOGS and provide FunCube satellite telemetry to FunCube Warehouse.
Reports from Reddit and Twitter are in that the recently launched Meteor M2-2 weather satellite is now functional and broadcasting images at 137.9 MHz. A few people have noted that the reception quality appears to be better than the older satellite.
Thank you to Happysat whose also provided the following information that can be used to receive the images. It appears that a slightly modified version of LRPTDecoder is required:
This version of LRPTDecoder was used to test/debug OQPSK with Meteor M-N2-1 in 2014, it will work on Meteor M-N2-2. The ini file attached in the archive is processed manually from s files. Buttons 72K and 80K respectively for the modes “without interleaving” and “with interleaving”. Also in the archive there are examples for other modes.
Transmissions on LRPT with a OQPSK Modulation are expected tomorrow on most probably 137.900MHz.
On July 5 the Russian Meteor M N2-2 weather satellite was successfully launched into orbit and appears to be healthy. The LRPT weather camera signal is not yet broadcasting however, and we expect it to still take roughly 1-2 months before it begins (if all goes well) as satellites typically run through a long list of qualification tests before becoming operational. During this time there may be broadcasts of test patterns that can be caught. Meteor M N2-2 can currently be tracked in Orbitron and online at N2YO.
To try and dispel any confusion over the naming scheme, "Meteor M N2" is the currently operational LRPT satellite. "Meteor M N2-1" unfortunately failed in 2017 as it did not separate from the rocket. "Meteor M N2-2" is the new satellite which has just been successfully launched. Meteor M N2 and M N2-2 is often abbreviated as just "Meteor M2" and "Meteor M2-2". In the past there was Meteor M N1, but this satellite is no longer operational. We have upcoming launches for Meteor M2-3, M2-4, MP-1 and M3 to look forward to which are scheduled for 2020 and 2021.
Back on June 28 we posted about how Meteor M2 was experiencing orientation issues for a few days. Those issues appear to have been rectified now. Hopefully if M2 remains stable we'll have two Meteor LRPT weather satellites to receive alongside the three NOAA APT satellites.
If you're interested, there were also several other payloads onboard the rocket carrying M2-2, including a low cost Czech experimental cubesat called Lucky7 whose telemetry can be received in the amateur radio band at 437.525 MHz. There is an onboard camera too, but no details on how to receive it yet.
Russian weather satellite Meteor M2 is a popular reception target for RTL-SDR radio enthusiasts, as it allows you to receive high resolution images of the Earth. However, currently it appears to be exhibiting orientation issues, causing off center and skewed images and sometimes poor/no reception. Russian blog "aboutspacejornal", writes that the orientation of the satellite can sometimes be restored presumably by a reset command from Earth, but shortly after goes back into uncontrolled rotation.
These sorts of off-axis images were commonly received from the older decommissioned Meteor-M1 satellite, which woke up from the dead in 2015. The resurrection was speculated to be from the batteries shorting out, allowing power to directly flow from the solar panels while in full sunlight. These days Meteor-M1 is no longer transmitting.
Hopefully Meteor-M2 can be fixed, but if not, Meteor M2-2 is due to be launched on July 5 which should also have an LRPT signal that can be received easily with an RTL-SDR. Hopefully the launch is more successful than the November 2017 launch of Meteor M2-1 which unfortunately was a complete loss as it failed to separate from the rocket.