Australia’s space agency has appointed a star boss with Virgin Galactic’s chief operating officer set to make a giant leap and rocket home for the role.

Enrico Palermo will take over from inaugural head Megan Clark, who lead the agency from blast off in 2018.

Mr Palermo will return to his native Australia after two decades of working in the space industry in the United States and United Kingdom.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new head comes to the role with extensive international experience in the space industry

“Mr Palermo’s leadership will rocket Australia toward our goal of becoming a major player in the international space industry, while providing benefits across our economy,” he said on Friday.

“By 2030, we want to triple the size of our space sector – adding $12 billion to our economy and creating up to 20,000 new, high-skilled jobs.”

Dr Clark will finish at the end of the year to become the chair of the agency’s advisory board.

Mr Palermo, who is a Perth native, works at Virgin Galactic’s aerospace-system manufacturing organisation and is president of the Richard Branson-founded Spaceship Company.

“In its first two years, the Australian Space Agency has made significant progress and achieved many firsts,” he said.

“I look forward to working with the agency team to continue the mission of growing and transforming Australia’s space industry.”

He will move from California to Adelaide where the agency is based.