Boris Johnson airbrushed out of photo shared by Grant Shapps

A source close to Mr Shapps said on Tuesday afternoon: “Grant wasn’t aware anyone had edited the picture.

“He removed it as soon as it was pointed out. Obviously he wouldn’t endorse anyone rewriting history by removing the former Prime Minister from a picture.”

The message was posted in advance of Monday night’s mission, which ended in failure, and read: “The UK Govt is delighted to be backing the FIRST ever satellite launch from European soil.

“Lift-off scheduled Monday at Spaceport Cornwall, Newquay.”

Mr Shapps, who was a staunch backer of Mr Sunak’s leadership campaign, refused to resign as transport secretary in the final days of Mr Johnson’s administration as dozens of his ministerial colleagues quit.

The Virgin mission, which marked Britain’s first satellite launch, ended in failure on Monday night when the LauncherOne rocket failed to reach the correct orbit.

Virgin Orbit announced just before midnight that there had been an anomaly meaning the rocket, which contained nine satellites, was heading back down to Earth and was expected to burn up on reentry.

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