Mr Kwarteng underlined the importance of Virgin Orbit for the UK labor market during a parliamentary committee on February 9.
The Business Secretary said: “There are 45,000 jobs in the space sector today, and the UK is supporting around 126,000 indirectly. We are refining targets on how we can grow the sector. Like you say so, this requires investments, and we are in the process of allocating the [research and development] budget.”
Ministers want to put Britain’s first rocket into space to coincide with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in May.
Virgin Orbit, listed on the American stock exchange Nasdaq, has not yet confirmed the launch date.
Instead of a traditional vertical launch, the Virgin Orbit rocket is carried into the upper atmosphere on a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet.
The rocket then detaches and enters low Earth orbit. Development began in 2007 with the first launch from Virgin Orbit in May 2020 which ended in failure after one of the rocket’s engines shut down prematurely. The second launch took place in January 2021.
The government wants Britain to become a space power. Cornwall isn’t the only place vying to be Britain’s equivalent of Cape Canaveral in the US – Lockheed Martin’s Shetland spaceport and UK company Orbex, which operates from Space Hub Sutherland, are also pushing to the title.
Virgin Orbit declined to comment.