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In this paper, a novel cross-layer framework for optimizing the dynamic bandwidth allocation (DBA) of a digital video broadcast (DVB)-return channel satellite (RCS) system using adaptive coding is proposed. The design of the medium access control (MAC) methods taking into account the adaptive physical layer and higher layers' quality of service (QoS) requirements is cast as an optimization problem by using the network utility maximization (NUM) framework applied within the satellite subnetwork. Hierarchical and global solving procedures fully compliant with the DVB-RCS standard are proposed. They do not only provide minimum bandwidth guarantees but also maximize fairness. Further, they allow a joint optimization of the time slot size and overall system efficiency while minimizing signalling overhead. A reduced computational complexity algorithm to solve the DBA problem is presented. In practical terms, it increases the number of connections with absolute and relative QoS requirements the system can manage and facilitates the interoperability of the satellite network within an Internet protocol (IP) environment.