Cross-layer engineering is an emerging research area, enabled by advances in software-defined systems and the development of advanced physical-layer waveforms. This paper describes how cross-layer mechanisms can be effectively introduced in the design of next-generation adaptive satellite systems to support Internet Protocol (IP)-based multimedia. It describes a set of signalling methods that facilitate cross-layer interaction and assesses key architectural issues in cross-layer design. The paper includes analytical, simulation and evaluation data for a set of novel techniques based on the UDP-Lite transport protocol and the Adaptive Coding and Modulation (ACM) provided by DVB-S2. Copyright (c) 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.