Accurate GPS access available to civilians in US, May 2, 2000
Selective availability intentionally limited precision of GPS receivers for non-military use. The switch was flipped at midnight on May 1, 2000, making May 2, the first day non-military systems would have improved precision from 330 to 66 feet available.
Prior to this, the highest quality signal was reserved for military for defense reasons. The move came after an executive order was signed in 1996 to turn off selective availability. The order was proposed by US Secretary of Defense William Perry because of the widespread growth of differential GPS services, to improve civilian accuracy, and to eliminate the US military advantage. The military was also actively developing technologies to deny GPS service to potential adversaries on a regional basis.
GPS remains owned and operated by the United States government as a national resource. The Department of Defense is required to maintain a standard positioning service and develop measures to prevent hostile use of GPS without unduly disrupting or degrading civilian uses.
The US Air Force currently manages the constellation of GPS satellites and is required to keep at least 24 satellites available 95% of the time. The 12th and final GPS IIF satellite was launched on February 5, 2016, and the fleet is keeping the Navstar Global Positioning System operational.
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For more moments in tech history, see this blog. EDN strives to be historically accurate with these postings. Should you see an error, please notify us.
Editor's note: This article was originally posted on May 2, 2013 and edited on May 2, 2017.