Deep Space
The James Webb Space Telescope aims to "find the first galaxies that formed in the early universe".

NASA officials said Tuesday the federal space agency will build the world's most powerful telescope by 2018, according to a report from Agence France-Presse.

The James Webb Space Telescope, which will cost around $8.8 billion, will be 100 times more sensitive than its predecessor, the Hubble space telescope.

The project, overdue after being hit by a series of delays and billions of dollars over budget, was at risk of being dropped altogether, as the U.S. Congress struggled to reduce the country's more than $15 trillion national deficit.

Its new project manager, Rick Howard, who came on board in 2010, told a Congressional subcommittee this week that the project can still be completed "within costs".

"We know that we have only one chance to get this right," he told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

"It is not going to be in orbit around the Earth, it is going to a distance four times further away than the Moon. So we are taking every step we can to mitigate the risks to make sure that we do have a system that can work," Howard told Congressmen, as quoted in AFP.

The telescope project aims to find "the first galaxies formed in the early universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy," he added.

Once launched, the telescope will protect itself from the sun with a shield the size of a tennis court and a mirror that measures more than 21 feet in diameter.

The telescope was named after the NASA administrator who crafted the Apollo programme.