Soyuz launches a weather satellite and 18 hitchhikers

A Soyuz-2-1b rocket lifted off from Vostochny spaceport on Feb. 29, 2024, carrying the Meteor-M2-4 weather spacecraft, along with a cluster of secondary payloads, including an Iranian micro-satellite for observations of the Earth's surface. It was the first mission originating from Vostochny in 2024.


The Meteor-M2-4 mission at a glance:

Payload Meteor-M2-4, Marafon-IoT dummy (IC), Zorky-2M No. 2, Pars-1, SITRO-AIS (x16)
Launch vehicle Soyuz-2-1b No. S15000-012 / Fregat No. 142-03
Payload fairing 81KS
Launch site Vostochny, Soyuz complex 1S
Launch date and time 2024 Feb. 29, 08:43:26 Moscow Time
Mission status Completed successfully



Meteor-M2-4 satellite

The Meteor-M No. 2-4 satellite (a.k.a. Meteor-M2-4) is the sixth spacecraft in the Meteor-M series introduced in 2009, counting one lost in a launch mishap in 2017.

As the rest of the Meteor family, the spacecraft was built at Moscow-based VNIIEM Corporation, which relied on its standard Resurs-UKP-M platform as a service module for the mission. According to its documentation, a spacecraft of this type is certified to operate in orbit for no less than five years.

Like its predecessors, the nearly three-ton satellite is designed to watch global weather and the ozone layer, to measure the ocean surface temperature and ice conditions, which can facilitate shipping in the polar regions of our planet. Its military use is also purported.


According to Roskosmos, Meteor-M2-4 was equipped with the following payloads:

  • Multi-channel Imaging Scanner of Low Resolution, MSU-MR (from the Russian Mnogozonalnoe Skaniruyushee Ustroistvo Malogo Razresheniya), for producing images of the cloud cover, Earth's surface and ice sheets in optical and infrared range of spectrum with a resolution down to 1 kilometer along a swath of 2,900 kilometers;
  • Multi-channel Imaging Complex of Medium Resolution, KMSS-2 (from the Russian Kompleks Mnogozonalnoy S'emki Srednego Razresheniya), for producing medium-resolution imagery of the land and ocean surface in optical mode with a resolution down to 60 meters along a swath of 1,000 kilometers;
  • Microwave Scanner-Sounding Instrument, MTVZA-GYa (from the Russian Modul Temperaturnogo and Vlazhnosnogo Zondirovaniya Atmosfery G. Ya. Guskov), operates at UHF frequency of 10.6-183.31 gigahertz in 29 channels with a swath of 1,500 kilometers to measure temperature and humidity of the atmosphere and the ocean surface;
  • Infrared Fourier Spectrometer, IKFS-2 (from the Russian Infrakrasny Furiye Spektrometer), for temperature and humidity measurements in the atmosphere, determination of radiation balance components and the measurement of concentration of ozone and other gases in the atmosphere at 5÷15 mkm range, resolution down to 35 kilometers and a swath of 2,500 kilometers;
  • Helio- and Geophysics complex, GGAK-M (from the Russian Gelio and Geophizicheskiy Kompleks) for spectral measurements and monitoring of space particle flow;
  • Onboard Radar Complex, BRLK (from the Russian Bortovoy Radiolokatsionny Kompleks), for obtaining day-and-night, weather-independent radar imagery of ice and snow cover and other objects, as well as imaging of dry land and vegetation with the scanning signal at 9.4-9.9 megahertz, resolution 0.4÷1.3 kilometers and a swath of 600 kilometers.
  • Onboard Radio Complex, BRK (from the Russian Bortovoy Radio Kompleks), for storage and transmission of meteorological data, SSPD (from the Russian Sistema Sbora i Peredachi Dannykh), from ground-based automated measurement platforms. The system's receiver operates at 401.9-402.0 megahertz, with the channel transmission rate of 400 bits per second, simultaneous processing of no less than four channels with frequency split, and a capability of storing up to 300 kilobytes of data per orbit;
  • KOSPAS-SARSAT search and rescue signal transmission system for sea, air and ground vehicles, with capability to pick up signals from the ARB-406 emergency buoys operating at 406.01-406.09 megahertz and their retransmission to rescue and coordination centers at frequency 1,544.5 megahertz.

Summary of technical specifications of Meteor M2-4 imaging payloads:

Spectral range
No. of channels
Spatial resolution
Multi-channel Imaging Scanner, MSU-MR
0.5-12.5 mkm
1,000 m
2,900 km
Multi-channel Imaging Complex of Medium Resolution, KMSS-2
0.52-0.900 mkm
60 m
1,000 km
Microwave Scanner-Sounding Instrument, MTVZA-GYa
10.6-183.31 gigahertz
16-198 m (horizontal)
1.5-7 (vertical)
1,500 km
Infrared Fourier Spectrometer, IKFS-2
5-15 mkm
35,000 m
2,500 km
Onboard Radar Complex, BRLK
9.5-9.8 gigahertz
500 m
600 km

Secondary payloads

Typically for Soyuz missions to near-polar orbits, the rocket carrying Meteor-M2-4 had a considerable extra payload capacity for its primary passenger. The hitchhiker cluster included one Russian-built Zorky-2M Earth observation satellite, the Iranian Pars-1 satellite, also for Earth observation and 16 ASTRO-AIS automatic identification system satellites. Also, onboard was a mockup of the Marafon-IoT mass mockup, designed to simulate a future satellite for the "Internet of Things" network under development at ISS Reshetnev in Zheleznogorsk. (INSIDER CONTENT)

Secondary payloads aboard the Soyuz launch on Feb. 29, 2024:




Developer / Operator


Meteor-M No. 2-4

Remote-sensing (primary payload)


2 Marafon-IoT mass mockup (IC)
ISS Reshetnev
3 Zorky-2M No. 2
Remote sensing (optical)
Sputniks, Sitronics Group
4 Pars-1
Remote sensing
Automated identification of vessels
Sputniks, Sitronics Group
Automated identification of vessels
Automated identification of vessels
Automated identification of vessels
Automated identification of vessels
Automated identification of vessels
Automated identification of vessels
Automated identification of vessels
Automated identification of vessels
Automated identification of vessels
Automated identification of vessels
Automated identification of vessels
Automated identification of vessels
Automated identification of vessels
Automated identification of vessels
Automated identification of vessels


Meteor-M2-4 launch campaign


Originally Meteor-M2-4 was planned for launch within a year from the successful deployment of the M2-3 spacecraft, which reached orbit in June 2023. However, at that time, the launch of Meteor-M2-4 was promised before the end of the year. At the same time, Meteor M2-5 and Meteor M2-6 were in production at VNIIEM.

In the mid-2023, the launch was scheduled for Dec. 1, 2023, but in September 2023, it was pushed back until Dec. 26, 2023, at 08:43 Moscow Time. By mid-November 2023, mission was postponed until Feb. 22, 2024, and by December 2023, the launch was expected on Feb. 29, 2024.

The spacecraft was delivered to the launch site on Dec. 28, 2023. On Jan. 15, 2024, Roskosmos reported that specialists from its TsENKI ground infrastructure division had transported the Fregat upper stage for the Meteor-M2-4 mission to the fueling hall and begun preparations for the loading of the space tug with propellant components and pressurized gases. The state corporation also confirmed the planned launch of the mission in "the first quarter of 2024." The fueling operations were completed with the Fregat by Jan. 29, 2024.

The stage was then transported to the spacecraft processing building where all the satellites were installed and the payload section was rolled inside its protective fairing on Feb. 21, 2024, clearing the way for its integration with the launch vehicle, which was completed on Feb. 25, 2024. On the same day, the State Commission overseeing the campaign, approved the rollout to the launch pad which took place on February 26.

How Meteor M2-4 was launched


drop zones A Soyuz-2-1b rocket with a Fregat upper stage lifted off from the Soyuz launch complex in Vostochny on Feb. 29, 2024, at 08:43:26 Moscow Time.

The ascent profile of the mission was similar to previous launches of Meteor satellites from the Far-Eastern launch site.

After a few seconds of vertical ascent under the power of the four boosters of the first stage and the core booster of the second stage, the rocket headed northwest across eastern Russia, aligning its trajectory with a near-polar orbit inclined around 98.57 degrees toward the Equator and an azimuth of 344.13 degrees. The strap-on boosters of the first stage should separated 1 minute 59 seconds after liftoff in order to crash at Drop Zone No. 981 in the Amurskaya Oblast (Amur Region) on the border between the Tynda and Zeya Districts.

The fairing protecting the payload then split in two halves and separated during the operation of the second stage at 3 minutes 46 seconds in flight. As a result, the payload fairing fragments fell at Drop Zone No. 983 in the Aldan District in the Sakha (Yakut) Republic.

Moments before the second stage completed its firing 4 minutes and 47 seconds into the flight, the RD-0124 engine of the third stage began to fire through the inter-stage lattice structure, which moments later separated along with the second stage 4 minutes and 48 seconds after liftoff.

Just 1.5 seconds later, the tail section on the third stage split into three segments. Both, the second-stage booster and the segments of the tail section were to impact the ground at Drop Zone No. 985, in the Vilyusk District, located farther north in the Sakha Republic.

The third stage continued firing, inserting the Fregat upper stage and its passengers into an orbit with an apogee (highest point) of 196 kilometers and a perigee of just 12 kilometers or well in the dense atmosphere. As a result, after its engine cutoff and separation from Fregat, 9 minutes 24 seconds after liftoff, the third stage began a long free fall back to Earth over the Arctic and Northern Atlantic Oceans. Its trajectory was designed to bring the flaming debris of the booster crashing into the Atlantic Ocean.

Space tug flight profile

Following its split from the third stage, the Fregat is programmed to fire its engines over the Arctic Region 10 minutes 24 seconds after liftoff for around 1.5 minutes to ensure its insertion into a transfer orbit. The six-ton stack then climbed passively for around 46 minutes before Fregat has to fire for the second time near the apogee of its initial orbit, this time over the Antarctica, 57 minutes 44 seconds after liftoff. The maneuver, lasting less than a minute, was designed to insert the vehicle into a nearly circular orbit around 830 kilometers above the Earth's surface. Around a minute later, or 59 minutes 46 seconds after liftoff, the Meteor M2-4 satellite was programmed to eject from Fregat's payload adapter, completing the main task of the mission. Because the initial engine firings had to be performed by the Fregat beyond the view of Russian ground stations, their successful completion had to be confirmed during the subsequent passes of the vehicle over Russia.

After the successful release of its primary payload, the Fregat embarked on a pre-programmed sequence to deliver its secondary payloads into their orbits, which would start with the third firing of the main engine to enter a transfer orbit. The separation orbit was formed with the fourth maneuver.

After the release of its final passenger around five hours after its liftoff from Baikonur, the Fregat was expected to conduct another pre-programmed maneuver to place itself on a suicide trajectory into the Earth's atmosphere and disintegrate over the Equatorial region in the eastern section of the Pacific Ocean.

Based on the tracking data from the US Space Force, space historian Jonathan McDowell attempted to summarize key events of the flight. The first maneuver of the Fregat upper stage reached the 180 by 804-kilometer orbit with an inclination 98.6 degrees at around 05:55 UTC (08:55 Moscow Time). Around an hour later, Fregat's second engine firing circularized the orbit at 812-824 kilometers with practically no inclination change (98.4 degrees). That's where the Meteor-M2-4 was likely released.

Then, the third maneuver at around 07:23 UTC (10:23 Moscow Time) depressed the perigee, resulting in a 510 by 814-kilometer orbit and tilted the inclination to 97.7 degrees.

Next, the fourth burn at around 08:10 UTC (11:10 Moscow Time) made the orbit circular at lower altitude (486 by 510 kilometers and an inclination 97.4 degrees), where 14 hitchhiker payloads had been released.

The fifth Fregat maneuver followed at around 08:48 UTC (11:48 Moscow Time) boosting the apogee and forming 502 by 750-kilometer orbit, where four more satellites were deployed.

The sixth Fregat burn circularized the orbit again, forming a 730 by 752-kilometer orbit and tilting the inclination from 95.4 degrees to 89.0 degrees, where one more payload was released, perhaps the mockup of the Marafon-IoT satellite (INSIDER CONTENT). The Fregat itself was presumed to be represented by an additional object in a 710 by 752-kilometer orbit, indicating that the stage did not perform expected deorbiting maneuver, at least at the time of the observation.

Because the official reports about the launch of the Pars-1 satellite indicated that it was supposed to go into a 500-kilometer orbit, it was presumed to be released among 14 satellites after the fourth Fregat maneuver. Zorky-2M was also presumed to be released in this orbit. However, it also meant that four SITRO satellites had been released into a 503 by 750 kilometer orbit for an unknown reason.

On March 1, 2024, Roskosmos announced that the MSU-MR scanner aboard the newly launched Meteor-M2-4 had delivered its first images. An image produced by Meteor-2-4's KMSS instrument on March 5, 2024, at 15:27 Moscow Time, showed the Medvezhei Island in the Barents Sea.

Also, on March 7, Moscow-based Sputniks company released the first image from the Zorky-2M No. 2 satellite.


insider content

Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: March 7, 2024

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: February 29, 2024

All rights reserved


insider content



Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


Launch containers with secondary payloads were mounted on the adapter section between the Fregat upper stage and the Meteor-M2-4 satellite. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


Mass mockup of the Marafon-IoT satellite (top) was a part of the Meteor-M2-4 payload. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


Meteor-M2-4 is rolled inside the payload fairing. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


Iran's 134-kilogram Pars-1 satellite.


Final integration of the Soyuz-2-1b rocket for the Meteor-M2-4 mission inside the vehicle processing building in Vostochny in February 2024. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


Soyuz with Meteor M2-4 is installed on the launch pad in Vostochny. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


Soyuz with Meteor M2-4 lifts off on Feb. 29, 2024. Credit: Roskosmos


Boosters of the first stage separating as seen by rocket's onboard camera. Credit: Roskosmos


A section of a payload fairing separating as seen by rocket's onboard camera. Credit: Roskosmos


Second stage (bottom left) and the aft section (top) of the third stage are separating from the third stage as seen by its onboard camera. Credit: Roskosmos


Fregat upper stage with Meteor-M2-4 satellite separates from the third stage as seen by its onboard camera. Credit: Roskosmos


Meteor-2-4 separates from the Fregat as seen by a camera on the upper stage. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


A photo from the KMSS-2 instrument aboard Meteor-M2-4 satellite produced on March 5, 2024, shows the Medvezhi Island in the Barents Sea. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


View from Zorky-2M No. 2 satellite published around March 7, 2024. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos

to rockets home