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The International Space Station: Dip, dip…news
17 March 2007

According to an MSNBC report, NASA's tracking data shows that the nine-year-old International Space Station's orbital path has dipped to just 207 miles above the Earth, which is its lowest average altitude ever.

Rocket engine firings, such as the series carried out this week through the engine of a docked Russian Progress capsule, meant to lift the station into a higher orbit, have resulted in correcting altitudes only slightly.

Constant atmospheric drag has seen the altitude of the station falling ever since its first components were placed in low-earth-orbit back in 1998. The year 2003 was particularly bad for the space station, with NASA grounding its space shuttle fleet following the loss of the Columbia craft. Since 2003 much smaller Russian capsules, as compared to the space shuttle, have provided periodic boosts to the station.

The station's lower dips do not appear to alarm NASA much, as it feels that firings from the Russian capsule engines are enough to maintain status quo as far as orbit heights are concerned. According to the agency, once larger components of the station are put into place next year, the space shuttles will also resume their primary responsibility for correcting the station's orbit.

According to NASA officials, the lowest the station has dipped in orbit was on May 23, 2000, when the station dropped 43 miles from a high orbit of 250 miles. A shuttle pushed the station higher and over the next two years the altitude remained relatively stable at around 246 miles.

It has hit an all time low once again.

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The International Space Station: Dip, dip…