Six of the sites shortlisted for the spaceport, due to open in 2018, are in Scotland. They include Glasgow Prestwick airport and RAF Lossiemouth.
All have to meet strict criteria, including being a safe distance from densely populated areas and a runway that can be extended to more than 3,000 metres (9,842ft).
The aim is to use the spaceport to launch tourists into space as well as commercial satellites.
By 2030, the government hopes to capture 10% of the world’s space market. If this target is met, opening up the UK tourism industry to specialist operators such as Virgin Galactic and XCor could be worth £40bn and provide 100,000 jobs.
Making the announcement at the Farnborough air show on Tuesday, the aviation minister, Robert Goodwill, said: “In order to lead the way on commercial space flight, we will need to establish a spaceport that enables us to operate regular flights.
“The work published today has got the ball rolling – now we want to work with others to take forward this exciting project and have Britain’s first spaceport up and running by 2018.”
The full list of possible spaceport locations is:
– Campbeltown airport (Scotland)
– Glasgow Prestwick airport (Scotland)
– Llanbedr airport (Wales)
– Newquay Cornwall airport (England)
– Kinloss barracks (Scotland)
– RAF Leuchars (Scotland)
– RAF Lossiemouth (Scotland)
– Stornorway airport (Scotland)
There have been reports that the government is hoping the Virgin boss, Sir Richard Branson, will build the port as part of his Virgin Galactic project.
Virgin Galactic’s first flights are scheduled to take off from a purpose-built spaceport in New Mexico at the start of next year, with passengers paying £120,000 for a 150-minute flight that will climb to heights of around 62 miles (100km) to achieve zero gravity for approximately six minutes.