Why is the International Space Station not in a circular orbit? The International Space Station is in a circular orbit around a globe called Earth. But if you try to stretch the globe out to flat map it looks like a sine wave pattern. This flat earth map is probably why you’re thinking it’s not a circular orbit. Below the image here is an animation of what’s really happening.
Because of the inclination of the orbit, the space station never actually goes over either pole. So in the sine wave image above you’ll see it seems to curve away from the poles. Below you can see how the ISS travels around the globe to produce an orbit on a flat map like above.