But why are they featuring Russian characters?
Because DirecTV satellites owe a lot to Russia.
"The DirecTV 12 satellite was bolted atop the 191-foot-tall booster for liftoff at 0022 GMT Tuesday (7:22 p.m. EST Monday) from pad 39 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan" -December 30th SpaceflightNow.com via space.com
Going back in your home entertainment tech, the DirecTV-10 was launched July 7th 2007, DirecTV-8 was launched May 22, 2005 and DirecTV-5 was launched on May 7, 2002 all on Protons from Baikonur.
Do I bring this up because I am against Russia. Actually, no. As has been said by smarter folks than me many times over the past two decades, the Russians are doing capitalism. While the Civilian Space Agency for the United States continues to be in the back pocket of Boeing and Lockheed, talking big about welcoming commercial space but supporting government regulations that let them hold their status quo or worse (read HR8751 which aims to cut Amercian commercial initiatives and puts that tax money directly into Russian Space Workers paychecks).
It is funny, sorta.
However, I don't know how I feel about Dish Networks' Astronaut commercials
Is it me or do those guys appear to be Americans?
I don't know how funny the implication is because, as I understand it, Dish Network systems that previously would go up by and on American launchers are now also being lifted from Baikonur by Russian rockets.
Of course some of the ranting against commercial US Launches from Baikonur may end up being moot soon. The September 13th 2010 edition of the industry trade magazine Space News reports that the US government has approved the sale that brings Long Beach, California based commercial heavy launch company Sea Launch out of chapter 11 bankruptcy.
"Chicago-based Boeing Co., which had been Sea Launch's general contactor and principal shareholder, will remain a Sea Launch supplier but otherwise has ended its management role in the company..."
The Space News magazine article mentions that 'Since Sea Launch lifts from the ocean, instead of from American or Russian land, it can't launch military payloads and has to do commercial launches'. Well... that is not exactly true, as you can read here.
"Karlsen said the company’s first post-bankruptcy mission will not be by the sea-based operation, but by Land Launch of Moscow"
But, ignoring the loopholes, being out of Long Beach, and having its' absolutely beautiful ship painted with stunning english logos doesn't alter the fact that Sea Launch is now approved to be owned by Russia's Energia.
"For Energia, this is a ticket into the global commercial launch business, and it is really not all that expensive" - Sea Launch President Kjell Karlsen
Not too expensive for the leaders in Space Access, shamefully too expensive for the country that still kids itself, with commercials and other forms of false pride from a 40 year old mothballed history, that it is the still the leader.