Before this update, to automate the reception and decoding of APT and LRPT satellites a Windows PC, and a huge stack of various decoding and tracking programs and SDR# plugins are required, some of which are now even abandonware.
For APT a typical chain was SDR# -> DDETracker -> Orbitron -> WXtoIMG and for LRPT a typical chain is SDR# -> DDETracker -> Orbitron -> LRPT Demodulator -> LRPT Decoder -> SmoothMeteor -> MeteorGIS. Setting this chain of programs up can obviously be a lot of hard work.
The latest version of SatDump adds automation features which means these two entire chains can be replaced with just one program - SatDump. SatDump is available for Windows, Linux and Mac, so it can even run on something like a Raspberry Pi 5 or Orange Pi 5.
Thank you to Carl Reinemann for writing in and sharing with us that the Meteor M2 LRPT decoder by Oleg (Robonuka) was recently updated. The Russian Meteor M2-3 weather satellite was launched in June of this year and is currently the only operational Meteor M2 satellite in the sky. It transmits images at 137 MHz in the digital LRPT format.
To receive it a simple V-Dipole antenna and RTL-SDR is usually sufficient. And to decode it software like SatDump or M2_LRPT_DECODER combined with the Meteor Demodulation Plugin for SDR# can be used. Instructions for the latter are available on HappySats instructional page.
Regarding the update Carl writes:
Thanks to Oleg (Robonuka), Happysat and Usradioguy have been testing the new decoder for about 6 weeks now, and it is ready to go!
The stability of the processing has been improved: The decoder is now more likely to produce stable results, even when there are errors in the input data.
The procedure for generating RGB and calculating GEO in the error-handling block has been improved. Now, the decoder's processing is considered unfinished until the GEO calculation is completed.: This means that the decoder will now wait until the GEO calculation is finished before generating the RGB values. This helps to prevent errors and produce more accurate results.
Exception errors fixed: Some errors that were previously causing the decoder to crash have been fixed.
AutoClose=yes by default: This means that the decoder will now automatically close when it is finished decoding. This can be helpful for saving resources and preventing memory leaks.
80K is much more stable: The decoder is now more stable than before. This means that it is less likely to crash or produce unexpected results.
Overall, these changes make the decoder more reliable and easier to use.
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.