Question about Mir and ISS

From: Edward S Light (
Date: Mon Mar 26 2001 - 07:51:16 PST

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    Now that Mir is history, and with the ISS project in full swing, the
    following question comes to mind: what is the determining factor of
    the orbital height of these two space stations?
    Excluding 1986 and 2001, Mir's "average height" (semimajor axis minus
    Earth's equatorial radius) has ranged from 251 km (in April 1999) to
    409 km (in April 1989), averaging about 367 km.
    For the ISS, excluding 1998, the range has been 331 km (in May 2000)
    to 399 km (January 1999), averaging about 375 km.
    Are these relatively low heights dictated by:
    (1) Launch vehicle capabilities,
    (2) The height of the inner radiation belt?
    To avoid [further] cluttering the list, please reply be personal e-mail.
    Clear and dark skies!
    Ed Light
    Lakewood, NJ, USA
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