Investigating the theft of a Drax Industries Moonraker space shuttle on loan to the United Kingdom, Bond proceeds to the Drax Industries shuttle-manufacturing complex where he meets the owner of the company, Hugo Drax, and henchman Chang. It is there that James Bond meets an astronaut on loan from NASA, Dr. Holly Goodhead and survives an assassination attempt via a centrifuge chamber.
Bond again encounters Goodhead in Venice where he is chased through the canals by Hugo Drax's henchmen. He discovers a secret biological laboratory, and by accidentally poisoning the scientists there, he learns that the glass vials are to hold a nerve gas deadly to humans, but harmless to animals. Bond also finds evidence that Drax is moving his operation to Rio de Janeiro. Rejoining Goodhead, he deduces that she is a CIA agent spying on Drax. They promise to work together, but quickly dispense with the truce. Bond has saved one of the vials he found earlier, as the only evidence of the now-empty laboratory, giving it to M for analysis, who permits him to go to Rio de Janeiro.
In Rio, Bond meets Goodhead at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, where they are attacked by Jaws on a cable car. After dispatching Jaws, Bond and Goodhead are captured by henchmen, but Bond escapes and reports to an MI6 base in Brazil. Bond travels the Amazon River looking for Drax's research facility and after finding it is captured by Jaws again. Bond is taken to Drax and witnesses four Moonrakers lifting off. Drax explains that he stole the Moonraker because another in the fleet had developed a fault during assembly. Bond is reunited with Goodhead; they escape and successfully pose as pilots on the sixth shuttle. The shuttles dock with Drax's hidden space station.
The climax of the film with the laser battle on Drax's space station. Drax plans to destroy human life by launching fifty globes containing the toxin into the Earth's atmosphere. Before launching them, Drax also transported several dozen genetically perfect young men and women of varying races, to the space station. They would live there until Earth was safe again for human life; their descendants would be the seed for a "new master race". Goodhead and Bond make an alliance with Jaws and a battle erupts. Before the battle Drax launched three of the globes towards Earth, which Goodhead and Bond destroy from their shuttle then Bond and Goodhead disable the radar jammer hiding the station from Earth. The US sends a platoon of Marines in a military shuttle. A laser battle ensues in which Drax's guards as well as his new master race die. During the battle, Bond shoots Drax with a cyanide-tipped dart, then pushes him into an airlock and ejects him into space.
The space station, heavily damaged in the battle, disintegrates. Jaws helps Bond and Goodhead escape in Drax's space shuttle. They too escape the space station as their module breaks away before the station explodes. At the end of the movie; James and Holly are seen in the bedroom of the Moonraker where she says to James "Take me around the world one more time".