In the wake of bankrupt satcaster AlphaStar shuttering its doors and ceasing operations Friday — leaving its 51,000 subscribers holding useless hardware — direct broadcast satellite market leader DirecTV rode to the rescue that same day by offering free equipment to the more than 15,000 AlphaStar subs in the continental U.S.The company officially announced Monday that it will provide a free system, which includes an 18-inch mini-satellite dish, a digital receiver and remote control. But there’s a catch: to qualify, the former AlphaStar customers need pay for shipping and handling as well as installation, a tab likely to approach $250. They also must sign up for a DirecTV Total Choice programming package. DirecTV’s strategy, of course, is to claim the disenfranchised AlphaStar homes in America before cable or a competing satellite provider like Primestar or EchoStar, can claim them. Bill Casamo, senior VP and G.M. of sales and marketing for DirecTV, said Monday, “We are pleased to be able to step in and provide (the U.S. subscribers to AlphaStar) with the largest programming selection and highest customer satisfaction of any DBS provider.” DirecTV presently boasts more than 2.7 million subscriber homes.