Nasa has given the go-ahead to a $438 million (£275.5 million) mission led by the University of Colorado-Boulder to investigate Mars and the likelihood that it once harboured life.
Nasa said a review team approved the plans and budget for the project, Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN.
The university's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics is leading the mission, which will carry instruments to probe the planet's atmosphere and its interactions with the sun.
The lab will provide science operations and build two of the instrument suites. Lockheed Martin in Littleton will build the spacecraft.
Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will provide navigation support.
Launch is scheduled for November 2013.