Boris Johnson airbrushed from a photograph of the Grant Shapps Spaceport

Business secretary Grant Shapps appears to have erased Boris Johnson from a photo promoting a failed Virgin Orbit flight on Monday night.

Posting on Twitter, Shapps shared a photo of himself and two officials in front of a Virgin rocket at the Newquay Spaceport in Cornwall ahead of Monday’s launch.

But astute users have noticed that Mr Johnson, the former prime minister, appeared in the original photo that remains on Flickr account number 10, dated June 9, 2021. It was also previously published by Virgin Orbit.

Shapps has since deleted the tweet, which read: “The UK Government is delighted to be supporting the FIRST-ever satellite launch from European soil.”

Part of the former prime minister's arm is seen in the picture (UK government)

Part of the former prime minister’s arm is seen in the picture (UK government)

Some Twitter users made fun of the gaffe, with one asking: “Is he [Mr Johnson] also be erased from history?” Another took aim at photo editing skills that apparently left part of Mr Johnson’s elbow.

“Grant left part of Johnson’s elbow. Dirty, they said. Another added: “I am for the removal of Boris Johnson.”

Shapps served as Johnson’s transportation secretary, who was removed from office last summer after a series of scandals.

Boris Johnson left office last summer (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson left office last summer (PA Wire)

He was one of many MPs who called on Mr Johnson to leave office after a number of ministers resigned in July in protest at the then Prime Minister’s handling of Chris Pincher.

A source close to Mr Shapps said: “Grant didn’t know that someone had edited this photo. He deleted it as soon as it was pointed out.

“Of course he wouldn’t support anyone rewriting history by removing the former prime minister from the picture. He was proud to have served in Boris’s government.”

An attempt to launch a Virgin Orbit plane overnight on Monday failed after the plane suffered an “anomaly” in flight.

After taking off from Cornwall, the Virgin Orbit plane flew 35,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean where it launched a rocket containing nine small satellites into space.

The organizers of the Start Me Up mission said the rocket – with various civil and defense uses – did not make it into orbit.

After the launch failure, Shapps told Sky News: “Space is tough. Everyone is used to seeing rockets explode from Japan, what have you got.”

He added: “The great thing about this technology is that no one was hurt. The pilots returned by plane.

“It didn’t work. I have no doubt they’ll pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and go again when they find out exactly what went wrong.”

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