The movie is loosely based on the novel "Orbit" by Thomas H. Block, from 1982. In the novel, a hypersonic plane on a cruise from New York to Sydney exceeds its cruise altitude due to sabotage by a revenge-seeking company engineer.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
This movie was mentioned in several interviews by director Stanley Kubrick who expressed great regret he did not pay as close attention to the Laws of Physics and tenants of common sense in his film 2001: A Space Odyssey as the people responsible for Starflight One. In fact, he often stated that plot device that required the plane's designer to be brought down to Earth to determine a method of rescue instead of simply using the often mentioned state of the art media bay contained on Starflight One simply to talk to the ground engineers a stroke of sheer filmmaking genius.