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Meteor scatter with MSK144

The VHF bands have a reputation for short distance communication unless conditions are enhanced. However with the right equipment you can bounce signals from meteors. This can be done with several modes however the MSK144 digital mode has been especially developed to be efficient here. It's a bit like FT8 in that there is a basic exchange and confirmation of callsigns only - it is not a conversational mode. However this is enough to constitute a contact for awards and QSLing purposes.

MSK144 setup is similar to any other digital mode. You need (i) a computer with sound capabilities (like they all have now), (ii) the free WSJT-X software (easily downloadble off the web), (iii) an interface cable conveying to and from the transceiver and (iv) an SSB-capable transceiver for 50 MHz, preferably equipped with VOX (voice operated transmit). For best results you will need reasonable transmit power (say 30 to 100 watts) and an antenna with some gain, eg a three or four element beam. 50 MHz is the easiest band for MSK144 with 144 MHz being more challenging. If you're beginning start with 50 MHz.

All MSK144 activity is on a specific frequency on each band. This and transmitting order may vary by area. Local VHF DXers into this mode should be able to help with regards to this and times when the most activity is likely to be (locally it's around dawn). Enjoy the videos below for examples of receiving MSK144 signals from around 1000km away on a simple vertical dipole antenna.


Receiving 50 and 144 MHz meteor scatter signals


More 50 MHz meteor scatter reception



These videos just show receiving. Transmitting would require a little more than the five watts I had. You can download the versatile WSJT-X software needed from here. A simple cable to connect your laptop computer to your transceiver is described here. That cable in conjunction with software and a suitable 50 MHz SSB transceiver will get you transmitting and receiving MSK144.



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